"The Idiots" ("Idioterne") is the controversial 1998 black comedy by Danish director Lars von Trier ("Breaking the Waves," "Zentropa," "The Kingdom) that has been the target of censor boards around the world. Karen (Bodil Jorgensen) finds herself introduced to a group of intelligent, good-looking young adults who live together and led by the charismatic Stoffer (Jens Albinus). They all decide they will provoke a response from the bourgeoisie by going out in public and pretending to be mentally and/or physically disabled.
Their constant efforts to create anarchy in every situation is basically what we would have called guerilla theater back in the Sixties. But the larger question is whether the film itself is part of the attack. The people confronted with these "idiots" are always shocked, angered, disturbed, or at least annoyed. Yet these are reactions the viewing audience can have as well to what they see; "The Idiots" is guerilla theater in the tradition of Andy Kaufman, albeit with sexually explicit scenes thrown in to really keep you guessing as to what is really going on. If you have never seen a truly provocative film, then, yes, I fully expect "The Idiots" might prove to be too much for you to handle.
This film is made under the Dogma banner, which von Trier established in 1995 as a restrictive anti-establishment manifesto requiring filmmakers to avoid the use of props, sets, artificial sound and light, lens filters and superficial action, all while filming with one handheld camera. Lars von Trier won the FIPRESCI Award at the London Film Festival for this film. The citation reads, in part, "For its attempt to rethink film language and social rules from scratch and willingness to accept the limitations of both its method and cultural assumptions." I am not sure the film works as either satire or social criticism simply because it is so outrageous that it can easily be dismissed by the very people you would assume its target audience. Still, you must admit it holds true to the principles of the Dogma manifesto.
Final note: My understanding is that the videotape version distributed in the U.S. does not have anything cut from the film; both versions run 117 minutes. However, black bars are used to cover certain shots in the orgy scene (you should know of what without me having to tell you) in order to avoid a NC-17 rating. Once again it appears we have the irony that the system tries to declaw an artistic effort in the name of profitability.