A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits the town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away.
The title was the first thing that was written for the film. See more »
When the baby falls from the window at the start of the film, we see him standing on the windowsill looking out onto the street before it cuts to him falling, looking into the house, as if he were to have turned 180 degrees in virtually no time at all. See more »
Where we look within ourselves to discover what we are made of
This is one of those movies that is obviously designed to generate polarizing controversy. And not only because it's an offering from Lars von Trier, a director well-known for producing stimulating polemics on film. In short, von Trier loves to shock everybody, it seems.
On the surface, this is not a complex story, however: a married couple loses their young son who falls out of an upstairs window to die upon impact with concrete below. To overcome their grief – especially that of the wife – they seclude themselves in a cabin in the deep woods so that the unnamed husband (Willem Dafoe), a psychologist or psychiatrist, attempts to heal his unnamed wife's psyche (Charlotte Gainsbourg). One, of course, can argue about the wisdom of such an arrangement.
The subtext, though, concerns the nature of – in short – the dichotomy between humanity and animalism. Or, perhaps between what is good and what is evil. Or, maybe between the essential nature of man and woman. Or, all three. Given the varying interpretations available at IMDb, I'd suggest there are those and other ways of assessing von Trier's intent with this story, in a similar way that David Lynch inspires divergent views about his work.
From my own perspective, this film shows what true horror means: the extent to which a person will go to exert their dominance over another, to satisfy their craving for security, sustenance and salvation; and in a horrifically twisted manner, the need for self-redemption. That creepy, shocking thriller Audition (1999) comes to mind, having an antagonist with a similar homicidal bent as She in this movie.
The two actors are simply stunning, going way beyond what you would expect, perhaps: from the most graphic sex scenes I've witnessed in mainstream cinema, to physical torture that has been called (unjustly) 'torture porn', and to an act of self-preservation that becomes an act of murder and perhaps a blessing for the one murdered.
On the torture aspect, I've noted that the human leg has five different arteries within, two of which are not relevant (being in the ankle and foot). The remaining three, however, would be difficult to miss given the type and size of tool used so viciously and methodically. Hence, He should have died in short order from loss of arterial blood; for dramatic effect, I guess She got lucky.
This is not story or film for most people, I think. It's not entertainment at all: it's simply a visually interesting and thought-provoking dissertation about how von Trier sees the human condition. It's up to viewers to make a judgment and thereby find out for themselves a bit more about themselves, if they dare.
Like I said, von Trier likes to be polemical. In doing so, however, he should beware: familiarity often breeds contempt. And boredom. So, I'm looking forward to seeing what he's done with Melancholia.
Highly recommended for adults only.
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