Actors: Willem Defoe, Charolette Gainsbourg
Synopsis: A grieving couple retreat to 'Eden', their isolated cabin in the woods, where they hope to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.
Before I ever caught a clip of this film I read and heard quite a bit of talk about this film. Most of it was about how it earned the Anti-Award at Cannes because critics viewed the film as misogynist and for featuring explicit sexual violence. I also heard a lot of talk about how intense the gorier parts of the film were. Lastly I heard that actress Charolette Gainsbourg, whom I only recognized from the film 21 Grams, won best actress for the entire festival. With these elements my interest in the film began to peak.
I never heard anything much more about the film after the initial reviews of the entire Cannes Film Fest where I heard all the talk that I previously mentioned. I wish I had read reviews from people that were more on my level of movie goers. I've never been a Siskel & Ebert type of critic with my movies. I can appreciate nerdier stuff like good cinematography and editing but what traditional critics define as "moving" or "enlightening" I tend to push off as pure "artsy-fartsy garbage" and that's what I ultimately felt like after I left this film.
When I mean I wish I read reviews from critics on my level I wish I heard some stuff from just your average movie goer up to and only as far as your traditional horror geek. Any college film major probably would pass this off as the greatest horror flick ever made because of how "deep" it is. But deep only works so much. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person and I'm definitely more than just the casual movie watcher but when a film is so avant-garde that I can't even figure out what is going on you can't expect the majority of the world to understand the message you were trying to convey. As an artist you want to share your works with as many people as you can, if your goal was only to please a certain "movie snob" level audience well then you can just consider yourself a pompous asshole.
After the prologue of this movie, which was crafted very beautifully, I had a lot of trouble understanding much of what was going on. There were definitely key moments where I got the symbolism but for the majority of the movie I felt like I was just watching a series of parts strung together with almost no purpose. It wasn't until I went home and read about the film again that I started to put more pieces of the puzzle together but even now I still can't tell you the overall meaning of the film.
The visual effects, the "gory" scenes, and the acting are about the only kudos I can give the film. I would give the cinematography some credit but the problem is it's only good in blotches. There are many times throughout the film that I felt like I was watching a first time cameraman in action. The movements were choppy and it tended to zoom in and out at really inappropriate times. Then at other moments the shooting was done with perfection. The gore scenes, which are more intense than gory, are some of the most cringe worthy moments I've ever seen filmed. The "scissors" scene is still fresh in my head and bothering me just as much as when I first saw it, 18 hours ago. Lastly the acting, which is really left to just two people (Defoe and Gainsbourg) is great. Gainsbourg puts in a fantastic performance as a woman going through the most extreme case of Manic-Depressive that I could imagine. Now that I have seen the movie, I can understand why she won the Best Actress Award for the fest. It's just too bad the movie wasn't much better.
This is one of the biggest disappointments I've experienced in my history of going to the movies. I had such high expectations for this film since it was being praised for how amazing it was shot and how griping the story was, while at the same time was being ridiculed for its violent nature (which is definitely a selling point for someone like me). It's too bad that Trier tried way too hard on making the film a movie piece of artwork rather than just focusing on telling the story. It seems like the visuals were the entire focus of the film and the story was a distant runner up.
Overall I give this film a 3/10. There are a few interesting moments within the film but I felt like this was just a 2 hour long music video. It was too artistic for its own good and will lose the battle of winning over a significant chunk of the audience. I can't honestly ever see this film earning back the $11 million it cost to make. If you really are interested in seeing this film based on the controversy it sparked then I would suggest finding a copy online. I'm not a fan of downloading movies but this is one of those films that I would feel bad knowing people actually paid money to watch it.