This grueling 2009 psychodrama by Lars von Trier (Dogville
, Breaking the Waves
) is the sort of movie that dares you not to take it seriously—it's dedicated to the Soviet metaphysical filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, and the end credits cite research assistants in theology, mythology, misogyny, and the horror movie. If you're easily cowed by that sort of thing, then this is a masterpiece exposing the divide between human intellect (equated here with male oppression) and nature (defined as "Satan's church"); if you're not, then it's a grisly fuckfest with a library card. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are a couple whose toddler tumbles out a window to his death while they're boffing in the bathroom (a scene that transpires in slow-motion black and white to a moody string score). A professional shrink, Dafoe decides that Gainsbourg can overcome her crippling grief only by confronting her fear of the forest, so he takes her out to a remote cabin in the woods and all hell breaks loose. I can't deny this is filled with powerfully primal images, but at least one of them—an eviscerated fox that bellows at Dafoe, "Chaos reigns!"—made me burst out laughing.
See our full review:
Selected films making their Chicago premieres at the festival through Thursday, October 15