Lars von Trier dedicates this to Andreï Tarkovski. Informally it's known as the first of his 'Depression Trilogy', when Trier was going through a bad period. True to fashion, this is a controversial film with its sex and violence, although I feel that the extent of the violence is nowhere near as terrifying or as graphic as Noé's Irreversible.
As regards sex, there's little of a greatly explicit nature, apart from the rather artificial-looking penis moving in out of a vagina a few times at the beginning. This is supposedly (although not in reality) the unnamed characters played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg having sex while their baby climbs onto the window area and falls to his death: his name's Nic, perhaps the only name person given a name in the film (although I stand to be corrected).
The main subjects are guilt and madness. The Charlotte character is recieving psychotherapy, although as a therapist himself the Dafoe character doesn't like it so takes his partner to the isolation of woods to cure her.
The violent parts are sadomasochistic and performed by Gainsbourg, one element of this being her drilling a hole through his calf, attaching a grindstone with a bolt through it, then tightening a nut to the bolt and throwing the spanner under the cabin. At the time he doesn't feel the pain as she's knocked him out by powerfully hitting him in the groin and masturbating him until he comes blood. The other incident is when she cuts off her clitoris with a pair of scissors. OK, both of these actions are intensely violent in themselves, although they are not shown in any graphic detail.
Is this a masterpiece, Trier exorcising his demons in public, or maybe just (badly) pretentious showmanship? Or both? As this is my first Trier I pass no judgement, but when I get round to seeing more of his stuff I may have reached at more conclusive verdict. Still, I'm in no hurry as I put my exploration of French cinema first.