Posted on 11/20/09 04:49 PM
Ever since the release of this film, I've been filled with nothing but intrigue and curiosity. All of my curiosity intensified when the film began to receive a lot of controversy for it's explicit sexual violence, with some labeling the film to be misogynist in nature. After reading some reviews for this film, I decided to finally check it out. Granted, I did come out of the film with many different opinions, which is what brought me to write this review. I appreciate film as an art form, and I love the fact so many people can have different opinions about one single movie.
Once the film starts, you're automatically absorbed in Lars Von Trier's world, where only pain, suffering, and evil exist. The audience follows the hardships of the two main characters, only known as He (William Dafoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Their suffering is catalyzed by an unfortunate event: while making passionate love, their child climbs out of a window and falls to his demise. After the death of their child, He and She have difficulty over-coming their own demons and decide to face their fears head on. One of She's biggest fears: a place the couple calls 'Eden'. After a great amount of stress and depression, they decide to go to Eden to face their fears.
The film consists of a Prologue, four chapters entitled "Grief", "Pain (Chaos Reigns)", "Despair (Gynocide)" and "The Three Beggars", and an Epilogue. The film's separation into certain segments or chapters does hold relevance, specifically, these are the some of the stages individuals go through after the loss of a loved one. Without a doubt, this is one of the most symbolic and thematic films I have seen in a while...but it's not easy to get through. Some of the sex shown on the screen is very mechanical, and the violence is sometimes jaw-dropping. He and She occasionally have sex to escape the pain and suffering they are going through. Their ultimate enemy is nature itself, which is explained and beautifully represented throughout the course of the film. William Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg give some of the bravest and most amazing performances I have seen in years. As a matter of fact, they are the highlight of the film, and they hold the burden of carrying this film on their shoulders. I can go on and on about how wonderful their performances are. They definitely deserve Oscar recognition, but I highly doubt that will happen with the polarized reactions of this film.
Another great thing about this film is the cinematography. The movie is beautifully shot, and it intensifies the pain these individuals are going through. Some of the visuals are just so well-done, you seriously believe they should end up in an art book. The dream sequences are some of the most well-shot scenes in the film, and their also some of the most memorable in terms of artistry and allurement. Lars Von Trier does an amazing job in capturing He and She's pain and suffering, and transfers it perfectly onto the screen.The cinematography also brings out the brutality of some of the most explicit scenes in the film. Just the way some of the violence is depicted is enough to make you want to turn away from the screen.
Now, thus far all I've done is praise the film. The film's themes are well thought out, the performances are probably some of the best I've seen all year, and the cinematography is just beautiful...but there is one main problem that takes away from the film: Act III of the movie. This is where a good portion of the controversy comes into play, and this is where audiences will end up with split reactions because we either take the sexual explicit violence as something relevant, or something that is just shown to shock us. I ended up on the side of the fence that didn't find the sexual violence relevant at all. Some of the things that happen in this film are so grotesque and disturbing, that you'll undoubtedly end up thinking "What the hell is going on?". Now, I'm not saying it's the level of violence that took me away from the film, it's just that some of it was pointless. Only one of these scenes did display some relevance, but the rest left me in bewilderment. It wasn't necessary, and it definitely took me out of the world that Lars Von Trier had beautifully created. I felt as if the film just took a dramatic turn, even when I knew what to expect because I had heard about some of the controversial scenes before-hand.
Overall, this is a well thought out film, but I feel as if the Third Act took a route that didn't fit well with the rest of the movie. I didn't think the film was misogynistic in nature, nor do I think the violence was too much. I just personally believe that the film took a turn it didn't need to take. It lost touch with what it was doing so well in the first two Acts. This film is definitely not for everyone. It is necessary to see this film with an open mind, and it's definitely not for those with a weak stomach. The first two Acts will leave hard-core film fanatics dazzled, but the controversy will undoubtedly polarize audiences.