Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier

Danish film director and screenwriter
With a back-story (almost) as singular as his films, Danish director Lars von Trier was one of the most exceptional filmmakers to burst onto the international film scene in the 1990s. Unapologetically confident in his artistry and an unabashed provocateur, von Trier could kick up a fuss about his behavior, but his stylistic brio, extreme narratives, and ability with actors prevented such films as Zentropa (1991), The Kingdom (1994), Breaking the Waves (1996), and Dancer in the Dark (2000) from being eclipsed by their creator. Even as he openly sought a larger audience by making films in English, von Trier's success helped resurrect Scandinavian cinema's international prominence; his intense fear of flying ensured he'd never "go Hollywood."Raised by his radical, nudist Communist parents in an unconventional environment where, as von Trier once put it, everything was permitted except "feelings, religion and enjoyment," von Trier blossomed into a neurotic, left-wing, movie-loving youth. Given a Super-8 camera at age 11, von Trier spent his teens making movies and entered Copenhagen's film school in the early '80s. After winning prizes at the Munich Film Festival in 1981 and 1982 for his student films, and adding the aristocratic "von" to his name, the 1983 graduate managed to put together his low-budget debut feature, The Element of Crime (1984). A highly stylized neo-noir cop thriller set in a sepia-toned, water-logged future, The Element of Crime attracted favorable notice at the Cannes Film Festival, winning a prize for technical achievement. Von Trier continued his feature trilogy about Europe with the reflexive thriller Epidemic (1987). Starring the director as a director trying to raise money to make the movie-within-a-movie about a horrific virus unleashed on contemporary Germany, Epidemic was a controlled stab at postmodernism that underlined von Trier's restless creativity even though it was not as well regarded. After a version of Medea (1988) for Danish television -- presaging his 1990s focus on borderline women -- von Trier completed his European trio with Europa (1991). A darkly comic drama set in post-WWII Germany, Europa dazzled viewers with its ambitious use of superimposition, rear projection, and dramatic shifts between black-and-white and color, definitively establishing von Trier's mastery of ominous atmospherics. Retitled Zentropa for its American release, Europa earned von Trier his first substantial international recognition as well as film festival notoriety. Disappointed by Europa's third place Special Jury Prize at Cannes, von Trier accepted his award with thanks to "the midget," jury chair Roman Polanski.Despite an array of publicized psychological problems, including crippling bouts of agoraphobia, von Trier continued to experiment and stretch his cinematic vision, announcing plans to make a film called Dimension, to be shot in three-minute increments over 30 years. While the results of that project remain to be seen, what von Trier made in the ensuing eight years vaulted him from cult status to bona fide directorial stardom. Turning his terror of hospitals into superb entertainment, von Trier mounted the chilling miniseries The Kingdom (1994) for Danish TV. Shot on location in a Copenhagen hospital in 16 mm with available light, The Kingdom was an inspired blend of Twin Peaks freakiness with ER procedural kineticism in its story of a haunted hospital. A TV and film festival hit, The Kingdom also became a precursor to the new aesthetic and spiritual concerns of von Trier's subsequent 1990s feature films. Embroiled in personal turmoil mid-decade, including his mother's 1995 deathbed revelation of his actual biological father (who wanted nothing to do with von Trier after an initial meeting), von Trier definitively rebelled against his past. Along with converting to Catholicism, von Trier broke from the perfectionist style of his Europe trilogy, aiming to achieve the "honesty" he admired in Danish iconoclast Carl Theodore Dreyer's work with his own self-imposed artistic "chastity." Co-authoring the Dogme 95 manifesto with fellow Dane Thomas Vinterberg, von Trier declared that Dogme-ites should reject artifice by only telling contemporary stories and only shooting films on location, in natural light, with a handheld camera, and with location sound.Though von Trier's next movie wasn't pure Dogme, it did reveal his altered perspective. Drawing on the tradition of florid melodrama that von Trier adored and his family had despised, as well as his newfound spirituality, Breaking the Waves (1996) became an international sensation. Broken up by vividly colored chapter "headings" created in collaboration with painter Pers Kirkeby, Breaking the Waves' disturbing story of female sacrifice and sexual martyrdom was lent dizzying immediacy by cinematographer Robby Mьller's bravura, desaturated handheld camera work and film newcomer Emily Watson's intense performance as the simple-minded, devoted Bess. Praised for its fearless visuals, naked spirituality, and audacious emotionalism, and damned by some for its exploitative view of women, Breaking the Waves became an art house hit and earned von Trier another dissatisfying Cannes prize (the second place Grand Jury citation) and Watson an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.Before his own entry in the Dogme canon, von Trier returned to his terrifying hospital for the miniseries sequel to The Kingdom. As popular as its predecessor, The Kingdom II (1997) was more outrageously (and comically) horrifying, reaching a grotesque peak with Udo Keir's performance as an enormous mutant spawn. Though von Trier intended to complete the yarn with The Kingdom III, lead actor Ernst-Hugo Jaregard's death in 1998 put the project in limbo. ABC, though, announced an American TV remake of The Kingdom to be written by Stephen King.Following Dogme 95's first international recognition with Vinterberg's The Celebration (1997), von Trier's own Dogme work The Idiots (1998) caused yet another stir. Though the roughly shot digital video depiction of a commune who "spaz" to disrupt bourgeois complacency and their effect on one female member raised eyebrows over its treatment of the mentally challenged, The Idiots also drew attention when von Trier refused to cut the orgy sequence's hardcore nudity, superimposing black bars over the offending body parts instead. Von Trier became really angry, however, when the producers artificially corrected the lighting for the video release in 1999. Whatever its weaknesses, The Idiots helped to strengthen the Dogme 95 movement, which continued to expand with such films as Mifune (1999), Julien Donkey-Boy (1999), and Italian for Beginners (2001). After executive-producing the popular Danish TV romance Morten Korch (1999), von Trier completed his "Golden Hearts" film trilogy about disturbed near-saintly women with perhaps his most divisive work to date, Dancer in the Dark (2000). Combining melodrama with the musical, another of his favorite genres, and shot in washed-out handheld video, save for the deliriously colorful, kaleidoscopic musical interludes, Dancer in the Dark upended musical conventions while inflicting an almost unbearable amount of suffering on doomed heroine Selma. Debuting at Cannes on the heels of well-publicized on-set strife between von Trier and star Bjork, Dancer in the Dark provoked as many boos as cheers on the way to winning the Best Actress prize and von Trier's longed-for Palme D'Or. While some critics slammed Dancer for its depiction of America (where plane-phobe von Trier has never been), its aesthetic ugliness, and emotional battery, others praised its daring style and visceral impact. Bjork's appearance at the Oscars in a swan dress to perform Dancer's nominated song "I've Seen It All" occasioned a similar love-it-or-hate-it response.Taking the uproar in stride as always, von Trier began shooting his next film, Dogville, in 2002. Eschewing digital video for HDTV and casting Nicole Kidman in the lead, von Trier all but guaranteed that Dogville would be another noteworthy endeavor. Source:
I always do something that I've never done before.More Lars von Trier quotes [11/20/2012 03:11:01]
I encouraged the cast to make up their own lines.More Lars von Trier quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]
I am a man who likes to control things, and if I can't control them totally I will not control them at all.More Lars von Trier quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]
There is no creative expression of artistic value that has ever been produced by ex-drunkards and ex-drug-addicts. Who the hell would bother with a Rolling Stones without booze or with a Jimi Hendrix without heroin?More Lars von Trier quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]
I think it's important that we all try to give something to this medium, instead of just thinking about what is the most efficient way of telling a story or making an audience stay in a cinema.More Lars von Trier quotes [11/20/2012 03:11:23]

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