Directed & Written by Lars Von Trier
Starring: Willem Dafoe
***** (5 out of 5 stars)
This movie is beautiful and creepy all at the same time. The opening scene is haunting, as Lars Von Trier weaves sexual intercourse, the death of a child, and classic music into one lingering sequence to open the story. A husband and wife, therapist and writer respectively, grieve over the accident that killed their little boy, both ravaged by the effects. The husband convinces his wife to let him treat her, although not an approved clinical practice. She agrees, and from there we watch a twisted psychotherapy clinic run by the husband. He insists on not having intercourse after or during a session, but her grief leads her to sex and they end most of their sessions, or are interrupted, by making love. This movie is all about the nature of humans, both male and female, although the plot steers very heavily towards the nature of woman, and how nature is just like us all.
There are a few points in this movie where you will find yourself wondering, "Has Lars Von Trier lost his mind?", or maybe just curious if he's gone too far. The jury is still out as far as I'm concerned, but these scenes really do their job and stick with you long after the end credits. All very effective, and that's probably why he used these scenes, to climax the fear and uneasiness we've felt throughout the film. Coupled with the husband's weird dreams, these scenes really push the viewer over the top with how uncomfortable and painful it is to watch the film at some points. In that regard, I feel Von Trier successfully did what he set out to do.
Von Trier's script is a step away from his usual territory. It's nice to see film use a lot of symbolism, such as the various dead and decaying animals we see throughout. The story is about the nature of us all and how we are all inherently evil. We see various things that point us towards this fact from both Man and Woman (as they are described in the cast list without names): the mutilation of both sexual organs (both by Woman), and the final fight between the two. The graphic nature of the imagery compliments the script so as to literally and visually convey the evil nature of human beings. Inside the story, the Woman is writing a thesis paper on how women are evil and this also drives the plot further along- this is roundabout where the Man begins to get somewhat frustrated with the Woman, and the tensions start to really build. That's the best part about Lars' writing here is that the tension builds from word one and it doesn't let up until the end. The very end scene where the Man stands in the forest and watches crowds of faceless women walk on past him through the trees is absolutely breathtaking, and it could mean a dozen things but what I took it as is the opposite of women are evil- (maybe) the faceless women are the countless unseen, unheard victims of men. So maybe Von Trier is hinting at both sides of the argument, that it's not just man or woman that is evil... we're all evil. We see the evil at the hands of the Woman and then the end is the evil of Man.
Between the directing, the atmosphere present throughout the whole film, and the solid acting on both the part of Willem Dafoe and (insert actress' name), this is a 5 out of 5 star movie for me. Exactly what I didn't expect when I first heard about this movie, which I thought was going to be another typical film about a possession. Superb.