This essay attends to key questions about the lived experiences embedded in The Idiots, which unlike many of von Trier’s other movies is unusually place specific, targeting the Danish welfare state and the national culture underpinning it. To appreciate this dimension of the film, the essay stages an encounter between von Trier and another passionate auteur—the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Combining von Trier’s cinematic vision with Kierkegaard’s philosophical existentialism is helpful because it allows us to foreground the techniques of filmmaking while also specifying the lived experiences enabled by these techniques. Even if we accept that The Idiots highlights the meta-diegetic level of filmmaking, and even if we accept that this tension points to a different politics, we still have to specify the embodiment of this opening as well as clarify how it contributes to democracy and society. The dialogue between Kierkegaard and von Trier is an important step in this direction.

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