Director Lars Von Trier ("Breaking The Waves", "Dancer In The Dark")'s work often seems to be heavily debated by audiences, who either love his efforts or don't find anything of interest with them. This was particularly evident with his "Dancer In The Dark", which many found intelligent, dramatic and beautifully performed, while others simply proclaimed it a badly and blandly filmed mess. Yet, "The Idiots" was greeted not only with the usual heavy discussion over the film's rather mildly shocking subject matter, but that was also accompanied by controversy, as a few scenes of the film showed explicit sex. The film was only shown briefly on two US screens and still awaits a US DVD release - one was announced last year, but was then cancelled with no new date ever appearing, as of yet.
The film is another in the series of "Dogme" pictures, which is an interesting set of rules that was partially written by Von Trier, proclaiming that the film must be shot with "natural light", sound must be recorded naturally and other minimalist rules must be followed. With "The Idiots", the videocamera used to film often appears rather shaky and freely wanders about, capturing whatever it seems to deem interesting at that particular moment. This results in a film that looks noticably low-tech, but seems to be an attempt to force the filmmaker to push for a stronger story and the best performances.
As for "The Idiots", the story itself may offend some. A group of fairly ordinary looking Danish young people from different walks of life get together and act as if they're mentally handicapped. Visiting restaurants, taking tours and what not, they do this all in an attempt to unleash their "inner idiot", escape from their adult lives at least momentarily and get a reaction from the society around them. Soon after the introduction of a new woman to their group, arguements arise and the members begin to fall apart. Von Trier's point seems to be to view how society looks at mental illness and people attempting to find a way to connect with one another as well as other things, but it never seems as if the director is able to put these ideas and goals together into a cohesive movie. "The Idiots", for a while, is both shocking and interesting at the same time and the film's performances are very good, as well. Yet, the film's pace borders on glacial and by halfway in, I found myself on the verge of boredom. This DVD edition, although it does show some nudity, is unfortunately the edited version of the picture. While I've seen several different running times listed for the picture (109, 115, etc), the back of the box on this disc says 110 minutes while the feature that it includes actually runs in the neighborhood of 107. The DVD does not state a rating on the back of the box.
So, while I must say that I've greatly enjoyed Von Trier's other work, especially the fantastic "Dancer In The Dark", "The Idiots" simply left me somewhat indifferent. It's a picture that I feel like I should watch again to try and appreciate further, but the other side of me really has no desire to. I was also displeased to find that this version was the edited version of the picture. While I don't know how much a few minutes of explicit footage would have changed my otherwise fair opinion of the majority of the picture, I certainly would have liked to have seen the film the way that Von Trier intended.
VIDEO: The film is presented in 1.33:1 full_frame and defies criticism - it doesn't look very visually crisp or well-defined and problems occasionally arise, but - it's supposed to look that way. Sharpness and detail are generally decent, but vary throughout the movie, as some darker sequences look rather muddled and I noticed a scene or two during the film where the camera went out of focus a bit.
Problems arise, but nothing terribly distracting. The print used doesn't look entirely clean, as some slight speckles and marks appeared on a couple of scenes. Otherwise, edge enhancement is absent and pixelation doesn't appear, either. Colors appear natural and problem-free. Given the material and style of filmaking, this is probably the best that "The Idiots" is going to look. Subtitles are presented in English and Chinese - a couple of times the subtitles extended past the borders, cutting out pieces of the sentence. Also, at 1:13:55, the DVD jumped to a chapter selection menu on its own. Repeated tries to play at this point produced the same results.
SOUND: Where the image quality presented the film as it probably should appear, the soundtrack does not. Although I have not read the rules of Dogme filmmaking, I would think that the Dolby 4.0 soundtrack that appears on this DVD would be a violation of the rules. Other releases of the film have been simple Danish 2.0, but for this release, the DVD producers have strangely felt the need to produce a pseudo-surround track, with the stereo sound replicated in the surrounds. While this effect is mildly irritating and completely unnecessary, I still found the soundtrack at least listenable.
MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus that essentially use film-themed images and cover art.
Final Thoughts: While "the Idiots" had potential and fine performances, I found the film to slowly begin to wear out its welcome. The Region 0 DVD is a dissapointment, offering an edited version of the movie and an unncessary surround presentation, when the film's original 2.0 presentation would be entirely satisactory and likely, more enjoyable. Region 1 fans of the film will likely attempt to wait until USA Films decides to go ahead with their release of the picture, which will hopefully include the uncensored version and a few supplements from Von Trier.