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Stars: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Director: Lars von Trier

Unable to cope with their grief after their toddler son falls to his death from his bedroom window - wide open in the depths of winter while it's snowing?? - while they're engaged in somewhat violent sex, deeply-troubled couple Dafoe and Gainsbourg head for their cabin in the woods, though goodness know why, as the it's the most desolate and inhospitable spot imaginable. And certainly not the place for the wife to face her fears and pain, with the help of her therapist husband.

Soon, he discovers disturbing images from her thesis on the persecution of women down the ages, and in no time at all, she's gone completely and lethally barmy, screwing a pinwheel into his leg after felling him, doing unmentionable damage to his private parts (lots of these on view) and even dragging him from his despairing refuge under the roots of a huge tree. She also compels him to mutilate her with scissors.

You won't find this deeply shocking film an easy watch, even if you're still awake when the action starts. It goes all metaphysical on us at the end, but Ingmar Bergman used to do this kind of psychological (and physical) torture so much better. Plotwise, too, it's almost as potty as Gainsbourg. Performances, however - especially Gainsbourg's - are very good.

David Quinlan

Denmark/Norway 2009. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye. Colour by Nordiskfilm/Black and white.
104 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 19 Jul 2009