Monday, August 15, 2011


Forget all the excuses, 'the childish fascination' and 'the all embracing humility', for this is my confession, black on white: I, Lars von Trier, am but a simple masturbator of the silver screen. - Lars Von Trier

With quotes like the one above along with his recent Cannes statement, beefs with fellow directors like Roman Polanski & Nicolas Refn and films like 'Antichrist', I think its safe to say that Lars Von Trier has earned the title of most notorious director of the 21st century. Even people who profess to hate his films still talk about them with passion. I know this sounds a bit ridiculous, but in a way that means Lars Von Trier has succeeded. After all, he's the man who was quoted saying; A movie should be like a pebble in the shoe. And as far as I'm concerned, Bjork hanging lifelessly at the ending of 'Dancer In Dark', the underlying message that 'Antichrist' was trying convey and many elements of his other films ARE in fact a pebble in the shoe (at least in my shoe they are). But outside of the button pushing and prickish tendencies, he's is still a talented director with plenty of technical skill and great imagery which we're gonna look at right now. And although it may seem like I'm criticising him more than the other directors we've looked at before, I am a fan of Von Trier's work...

We all know it isn't uncommon for a director to make a cameo in his/her films (hitchcock, tarantino, john singleton, etc) or even star in them (woody allen, spike lee, john cassavetes). At the beginning of Von Trier's career he was no exception to that, making cameo appearances in 'The Element Of Crime' & 'Europa' and starring in 'Epidemic'. The problem is that over the years he's made sure that his name appear BIGGER and BIGGER than the actual movie title, or the actors starring in the film (like he did recently in 'Antichrist'). At the beginning of the 'The Boss Of It All' he gives an unnecessary introduction which seemed to only serve the purpose of putting himself on camera. I get that these are his films, but sometimes it feels like he wants people to be EXTRA sure that they're his films...
The Element Of Crime
Matt Dillon as a variation of Lars Von Trier in The House That Jack Built

Lars' name appears bigger than the movie title in the opening credits of Breaking The Waves...

and in Dancer In The Dark
Lars Von Trier in The Boss Of It All filming himself in the reflection of a window

I remember reading a friends facebook status just after he saw 'Antichrist' and it simply read; "wow...lars von trier has problems". Whats funny is that nowhere in that status update did it say anything about him actually seeing 'Antichrist'. Its just one of those things I knew. The endings of a lot of his films in the last decade have clearly shown that he's a depressed person: The ending of 'Dogville' where Nicole Kidman and James Caan order an entire village to be murdered, the ending of 'Dancer In The Dark' where we see Bjork just hang there after being executed, and of course the ending of 'Antichrist' which clearly shows that he's got issues with women. Lars has always been very open about his depression, Prozac use and other phobias. Maybe its just me, but i think he likes to take his aggression out on his female characters. With the exception of 'The Boss Of It All (which i almost don't even count as one of his movies because it wasn't very good), all of his films show a woman being beaten, raped, murdered, dominated sexually or suffering from some kind of loss or depression. And most times its a combination of at least 2 of those things. In 'Breaking The Waves', Emily Watson is raped, beaten and murdered.  In 'The Idiots', Karen is not only suffering from the loss of her son (much like Charlotte Gainsbourg in 'Antichrist'), but her husband punches her in the face at the end of the film. Nicole Kidman is raped and used as a sex doll by the end of 'Dogville' and the 'Element Of Crime' is about a killer brutally murdering woman. Don't get me wrong, both male and female characters suffer in his films, but its pretty obvious that women catch it much worse...
Breaking The Waves
The Idiots
Dancer In The Dark
The House That Jack Built

Lars Von Trier my be a "rule breaker" or a "radical", but all of his films still follow some strict guideline either in the way they're made or in the plot of the film. Much of his films are broken up by chapters (breaking the waves, dogville, manderlay and antichrist). 'The Idiots' follows the strict dogma guidelines (a style of film making that lars von trier co-created involving minimal post-production, natural lighting and other strict rules), 'Epidemic' was made strictly to prove the point that he could make a film with only a $100,000 budget and the plot of 'Element Of Crime' involves a cop trying to find a killer using a strict set of guidelines taught to him by his mentor...
Breaking The Waves
Dogma certificate for The Idiots 
Dogville opening credits
Manderlay opening credits

Lars has made it very clear in plenty of interviews and Q&A's that he looks up to directors like Fassbinder, Tarkovsky and Bergman. Just like his peers, Von Trier makes references to his favorite films and filmmakers all the time...

Ingmar Bergman
Persona (Bergman)
Europa (Von Trier)
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Fassbinder was another big influence. The use of Fassbinder's "regulars" in 'Europa' (along with Ingmar Bergman Regular Max Von Sydow as the narrator) was kind of an homage...
Eddie Constantine in Fassbinder's 'Warnung'
Barbara Sukowa in Fassbinder's 'Lola'
Udo Kier in Fassbinder's 'The 3rd Generation'
Eddie Constantine (far left), Barbara Sukowa (center) and Udo Kier (far right) together in Von Trier's Europa
Andrei Tarkovsky
Be sure to check out this older blog entry which shows a lot of comparisons between Tarkovsky & Von Trier...PINNLAND EMPIRE: The School Of Tarkovsky
Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky)
The Element Of Crime (Von Trier)
Andrei Rublev / Epidemic
Andrei Rublev / Breaking The Waves
Solaris / Antichrist
The Mirror / Nocturne
The Mirror / Antichrist
Virgin Spring / Sacrifice
Mother & Son / Nymphomaniac

We all know that one of Von Trier's main motivations is to fuck with people (sorry, but its true). Sometimes he succeeds like in the end of 'Dogville' or 'Dancer In The Dark' and sometimes it comes off as a juvenile prank like certain elements of 'Antichrist', 'Manderlay' and him showing real sex in 'The Idiots' (a film about a group of anarchists who go around pretending to be retarded to "disrupt the system"). But no matter what, Von Trier has a talent for implanting unsettling images & scenes in your head that stay there for a long time. Look at the end of 'Antichrist'. Sure i said some aspects of that movie are kinda juvenile, but at the same time the beginning of the film where the baby falls out of the window and the ending where all the ghostly woman are walking up the hill towards Willem Dafoe has always stayed with me.
The Idiots
The House That Jack Built

Dancer In Dark
The House That Jack Built


When you get past Von Trier's ego and the controversy surrounding some of his films, He still does some pretty interesting stuff behind the camera with colors, editing and cinematography...

Image Of Relief
The Element Of Crime
The Five Obstructions


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