Dogme 2 - The Idiots

The Idiots

The Idiots (Idioterne) is a 1998 Danish film directed by Lars von Trier. It is his first film made in compliance with the Dogme '95 Manifesto, and is also known as Dogme #2. It is the second film in von Trier's Golden Heart Trilogy, which includes Breaking the Waves (1996) and Dancer in the Dark (2000).


The film is about a seemingly "anti-bourgeois" group of adults who spend their time seeking their "inner idiot" to release their inhibitions. They do so by behaving in public as if they were developmentally disabled. The members of the group refer to this behaviour as "spassing", a neologism derived from "spasser", the Danish equivalent of "spaz", which has the same connotations in Denmark as in the United Kingdom. (The Idiots is not concerned with actual disability, or with distinguishing between mental retardation and physical impairment.)

The "spassing" is a self-defeating attempt by the group to challenge the establishment through provocation. The self-styled idiots feel that the society-at-large treats their intelligence uncreatively and unchallengingly; thus, they seek the uninhibited self-expression that they imagine a romantic ideal of disability will allow.


The film provoked a storm of publicity and debates, one of which was about the fictional representation of disability. Yet it was often well received by disability groups, many of whom felt it exposed underlying social prejudices against disability.

Another controversy arose over the sexual content, which was unusually explicit for a narrative film. The Idiots contains a shower scene in which a member of the group (in character as an "idiot") has an erection and, later, a group sex scene that includes one couple (faces not seen) having unsimulated penetrative (vaginal) sexual intercourse. Both instances of explicit content are in view only for a few seconds. The film was cleared for theatrical release by the British Board of Film Classification, receiving an 18 certificate. When it was shown on Film4 (then FilmFour) in 2000, the erection and the intercourse were obscured by pixelization, following an order from the Independent Television Commission.

Channel 4 aired the film unedited in 2005 as part of the channel's "Banned" season exploring censorship and cinematic works. Viewer complaints prompted an Ofcom investigation, which came out in favor of Channel 4. In its ruling, Ofcom found the film "not in breach" of the relevant Code under the specific circumstances of the broadcast, that is "the serious contextualisation of the film within a season examining the censorship of film and television, its artistic purpose, the channel which transmitted it, the strong warnings before the film and prior to the scene in question and the scheduling after midnight." Ofcom added the caveat that, "While we do not consider the film was in breach of the Code on this occasion, we must consider carefully the acceptability of any similar content on an individual basis."

The Idiots is an adult-only movie in Argentina, Australia (though it has been shown uncut on TV with an MA rating), Chile, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Spain, the United States, and the UK. In Switzerland and Germany, the movie ran uncut with a 16-years rating in theaters, but for TV broadcast the group sex scene is omitted.

Breaches of Dogme 95 rules

The confession of a Dogme 95 film is an idea adapted by Thomas Vinterberg in the first Dogme 95 film: Make a confession if there were things happening on the shoot which are not in accordance with the strict interpretation of the Dogme 95 rules. It is written from the director's point of view. Accordingly, Lars von Trier made the following confession:

In relation to the production of Dogme 2 "The Idiots", I confess:

  • To have used a stand-in in one case only (the sexual intercourse scene).
  • To have organised payment of cash to the actors for shopping of accessories (food).
  • To have intervened with the location (by moving sources of light – candlelight – to achieve exposure).
  • To have been aware of the fact that the production had entered into an agreement of leasing a car (without the knowledge of the involved actor).

All in all, and apart from the above, I feel to have lived up to the intentions and rules of the manifesto: Dogme95.

An additional breach of rules was the use of Le Cygne by Camille Saint-Saëns as background music.


  • Bodil Awards (1999)
    • Won: Best Actress, Bodil Jørgensen
    • Won: Best Supporting Actor, Nikolaj Lie Kaas
    • Won: Best Supporting Actress, Anne Louise Hassing
    • Nominated: Best Film
  • Cannes Film Festival (1998)
    • Nominated: Golden Palm
  • European Film Awards (1998)
    • Nominated: European Film Award, Best Screenwriter
  • London Film Festival (1998)
    • Won: FIPRESCI Prize, Lars von Trier
  • Robert Festival (1999)
    • Won: Best Actress, Bodil Jørgensen
  • Valladolid International Film Festival (1998)
    • Nominated: Golden Spike, Lars von Trier

See also


External links

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