*** BIG FAT SPOILERS ***
I start this review still a bit gaping mouthed and hope I make more sense to you than I do to myself in this review. To be honest, I still haven't decided whether or not I liked the movie. One thing I do know for sure, is that it is not most peoples cup of tea. I think I got about three quarters of the way through and was on the 'not liking it' camp, but as it reached its climax, I began to appreciate a lot of aspects of the movie.
As the movie starts, it is very clear we're dealing with an arty one. Now I'm far from a fan of this kind of movie, so I don't expect to make much in the way of sense of the storyline. I do like how the movie is filmed though, I like the use of black and white. I like the separation of the movie into several different titled chapters. In places, I loved the almost musical flow of the script and the beauty of the location. Alongside the beauty we witness, there is incomprehensible violence and nastiness, which is very difficult to understand. It is shocking definately and had my eyebrows raised on a number of occasions, which I will go into later in the review.
As for whats going on in the movie. As we start, the couple who we follow through the movie (they are never named) are making love (all real sex apparently.. we can see why Willem Dafoe has been cast). As this is happening, their toddler son has climbed out of his cot, opened his baby gate and wandered to an open window. He climbs up and falls to the ground below. This opening scene is heartbreaking. As a mother, I probably found it the most difficult part of the movie as its a constant fear of mine and the sheer thought of anything happening to my son, almost drives me insane. This made me better understand the mothers actions as the movie progressed. The way the scene is shot, in black and white and slow motion, with a beautiful piece of music in the background adds to the tragic nature of what's happening. Its snowing outside and we can better visually see the toddler hit the ground below (although this isn't portrayed in a graphic or bloody way thankfully), we also see his stuffed toy bounce off the snow beside him. I had a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat.
So, things start to get more than a little odd from here. We don't ever see the couple discover their son, we immediately move to the first 'chapter' (the opening was the prologue) which is just after their sons funeral. The wife collapses with grief. We follow attempted treated in hospital, which her husband is not very happy with as she is not improving, so they decide to go to a cabin in the woods to try to get her better themselves as her husband is a shrink of sorts and thinks he can sure her by exposing her to what has happened.
So they take themselves to the cabin in the woods (called Eden) and what follows is some scary-assed sh*t. There is lots of sex. She seems to get increasingly more mad (I could understand this aspect as I said earlier as I don't think I'd cope at all with the death of my son, never mind if my carelessness caused it).... however... she moves from a bit f*cked up wanting her husband to be violent towards her during sex as she seems to believe following some studying she was doing before this all happened, that women are fundamentally bad and deserve punishment.
We see all sorts of weird scenes with animals, including a deer with a dead baby hanging out of her (obviously symbolising the mother who has lost her baby), a talking fox who is clearly badly injured and a crow who just won't die no matter how many times its bashed over the head). Just when I am starting to understand the woman and her grief, the husband finds out that she had been putting their sons shoes on the wrong feet causing him to have deformed feet. What kind of mother does that? This woman has obviously not been well in the head for some years, even prior to the death of her child.
As the husband makes this discovery, things begin to get eye-brow raising. How can I describe this.... she climbs astride her husband, shouting at him the whole time that she doesn't believe he loves her, makes sure he has an erection, then wallops him in the genitals with a plank of wood!! The pain renders him unconscious and as she lies beside him she looks over and notices he still has a raging erection!! WTF??? I'm sure that's not right?? Not only that, but an erect penis on screen??? This probably shocked me more than any other part of the movie. I've always been told, you're not allowed to show this on screen. She then proceeds to masturbate him and he ejaculates blood.. This raises many questions... erect penis? ability to ejaculate? blood? It is a real hand job too! Nothing prosthetic here. I did notice, the man is blessed amidst all this confusion.
So just as we're getting over that one, she drills through his shin with one of those hand drills and puts a massive weight through his leg so he can't move. She leaves him and goes into the forest, throwing a spanner for his leg weight under the cabin so he has no hope of getting the damn thing off. We then see him come to and manage to drag himself out of the cabin. He hears her screaming for him and hides in a hole (which is where the weird crow thing happens). She finds him and not content with what she has already done, she proceeds to batter him with a shovel and leave him basically buried alive! I thought that was it for him, but apparently not. Overcome with guilt, she drags him out and back to the cabin.
If we were cringing before, it's the ladies turn now. For reasons best known to herself.. probably guilt, she cuts her own clitoris off with a pair of scissors??? For a woman that seems to enjoy sex and masturbation as much as she does, this was a bit of a wierd move for me.
The weird animals make another appearance, leaving me head scratching again. He manages to find the location of the spanner, as the crow is trapped beneath the floorboards where he is lay in the cabin and he breaks through to free it. He retrieves the spanner and frees himself (not before she has tried to kill him with the clit snipping scissors!).
At last, he's had enough and we end the movie with him strangling her (very well shot and convincing) and he burns her body outside and cabin. As he walks away (with his injuries, i'm not sure how that was possible) and the movie , he is surrounded by loads of faceless women. I didn't quite get what they were inferring here, but hey, I didn't understand loads of this movie.
In conclusion, I can't say 'avoid' as it is interesting in places, beautiful in others and downright cringeworthy in others, so worth a check out I would say. Would I watch it again? Possibly... maybe to see if i could make more sense of it second time around. I can't quite bring myself to give it a 'Lisa Recommends' but it had its own appeal.