The Idiots | Chicago Reader

The Idiots

Shot on video, this 1998 effort by Lars von Trier is the only one of his features made according to his headline-grabbing and somewhat specious Dogma 95 manifesto. When I saw it in 1998, shortly after its Cannes premiere, it seemed like one of those independent countercultural films made in the U.S. and western Europe in the late 60s and early 70s but with all the leftist politics removed—the implication being that people rebel against society only because they have unhappy family backgrounds. The rebels in this movie are members of a sexually freewheeling commune who like to behave like “mentally challenged” children in public. Aside from one excellent scene, in which a father turns up at a commune to reclaim his daughter, this is thoughtful nihilist provocation at best (knowing von Trier's work, however, I'm more inclined to take it at its worst—as a cynical and sentimental con). Showing here belatedly, the film has been censored in the Japanese manner, with black bars obstructing the characters' genitalia (though apparently the process was carried out in the U.S.). In Danish with subtitles. 117 min.

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