Though obviously the work of Lars Von Trier, The Idiots does not officially have a director. Filmed in accordance with the Dogme 95 Vow of Chastity, a list of ten commandments that severely limits the filmmaker's options (eg: "5: Optical work and filters are forbidden") and status ("10: The director must not be credited"), it is shocking, moving and darkly hilarious.
After the Von Trier's acclaimed Breaking The Waves, a disturbing story of masochism and sexual manipulation, The Idiots is something altogether different. Largely improvised, the film focuses on a group of twentysomethings who form a strange commune-like partnership through which they begin to explore their darkest thoughts and desires.
Led by a student named Stoffer (JENS ALBINUS), they pretend to be mentally handicapped and try to test the local community's attitudes to the disabled. Over time, they come to think of themselves as a quasi-religious cult and frequently test each other on their commitment to the cause by launching "spazzing" attacks (Von Trier's own un-PC description) on nearby restaurants, factories and swimming pools. They are joined by the timid Karen (BODIL JORGENSEN) who, at first, dismisses their activities as cruel, juvenile student japes. But over time, she comes to understand Stoffer's contention that "idiots are the people of the future".
Through Stoffer's somewhat unorthodox teachings, Karen eventually comes to terms with her recent tragic past, but finds that regressing into this private world does not bring the catharsis she's looking for. Featuring nudity and brief footage of actual intercourse, The Idiots caused uproar at the 1998 Cannes film festival, both for its content and its director's surly behaviour. Von Trier recently claimed to have abandoned the Vow Of Chastity (with the FilmFour-funded Dancer In The Dark). "The more fashionable it has become, also the more boring," he said. "When we originally discussed the Vow of Chastity, we had no ambitions to change the world, like - for instance - the French nouvelle vague. But if in 25 years some film students accidentally excavate the manifesto and find the ten rules interesting, we will obviously be happy, but it was not our initial purpose." In Norwegian with subtitles.