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Lars von Trier (1956 - )
Related: Dogme 95 - European cinema - Denmark - 1956 - director
In 1979 von Trier made Menthe - la bienheureuse, a curious black &white homage to Pauline Réage's Story of O. [Aug 2006]
As a director, von Trier works in the transgressive tradition of Fassbinder and is very similar in style and content to other European filmmakers such as Ozon, Breillat, Haneke and Noé.
ProfileLars von Trier (born April 30, 1956 in Copenhagen, Denmark) is a Danish film director closely associated with the Dogme95 collective calling for a return to plausible stories in filmmaking and a move away from artifice and towards technical minimalism.
Von Trier also directed The Kingdom (Riget) and The Kingdom 2, a pair of miniseries for Danish television about a haunted hospital. A projected third installment in the series seems to have been derailed due to the death of one of its major stars. An American television remake has been undertaken by none other than Stephen King, titled Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital, for tentative broadcast in 2004.
Von Trier added the "von" to his name when his peers at film school nicknamed him "von Trier". He also reportedly added the "von" in homage to Erich von Stroheim.
He has described himself in Interview magazine (June 1989) as "a melancholy Dane masturbating in the dark to images on the silver screen."
He has never been to the United States as he refuses to fly. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lars_von_Trier
Pornographer?By Jack Stevenson
The widely admired if polarizing Danish director is the personification of the art-house aesthetic. Auteur, trailblazer, genius he’s been called all of these things too, and pornographer hardly fits the mold. Sure, he included a few brief seconds of hardcore action in his 1998 film, The Idiots, but to serious students of screen sex, this was employed in the cause of “erotic realism” not pornography.
And he was hardly the first to confront subtitle-reading aesthetes with the reality of the old in-and-out, as art film classics like Oshima's In The Realm of the Senses by Oshima and Pasolini’s Salo already included much more sustained, not to say deviant, scenes of sexual explicitness.
Context is everything. These are art films, and art films have dignity and significance, or so everyone assumes. In debating the release of The Idiots in the U.K., British censors acknowledged this and passed the film. Von Trier, they reckoned, was an artist with masterpieces like Breaking the Waves behind him, not a pornographer. And pity the poor punter down in Soho dressed for rain and cruising stacks of adult videos only to pick out The Idiots on a whim surely a let down of catastrophic proportions. Some of the gals were nice-looking enough, and one of them, Trine Michelesen, was even a pedigreed silicone-injected pin-up girl, but the spirit of the film was the antithesis of porn, which demands a certain mood and attitude. In one scene Michelesen capers through the woods topless, breasts smeared with tartar sauce she applied in a spastic fit. Not the sexiest behavior unless one is attracted to mentally retarded women (which she was pretending to be).
Censors saw the film as art, while viewers and critics saw it to varying degrees as either von Trier’s most honest movie or his most cynical, but for reasons other than his handling of sex and nudity. Von Trier himself would characterize the hardcore scenes as an attempt to draw a genuine portrait of the spiritual and physical life of the mentally handicapped. A “porno film” it was not.
And yet, while von Trier is clearly no pornographer in the traditional sense, some viewers have, since Breaking the Waves, detected a lingering sense of prurience lurking around his films that borders on the obscene. Dancer in the Dark for its part was blasted as “emotional pornography” by more than one Danish critic. And take the most recent example, the otherwise fully clothed Dogville. In it the character Grace (played by Nicole Kidman) finds refuge in a small mountain town where she is at first accepted and then exploited and eventually enslaved by the townsfolk, the men stopping by to rape her as it suits them. These rape scenes clearly have a pornographic resonance despite the absence of nudity or close-ups. Grace has become resigned to the inevitability of these encounters and doesn’t fight back.
Von Trier’s fondness for explicit sexuality is further evidenced in the various script drafts of Breaking the Waves and The Idiots, versions of the films that reflect his original thinking more accurately than the finished motion pictures, which were driven in a mainstream direction by commercial considerations. --Jack Stevenson, http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/43/trier.htm, accessed Apr 2004
Dogville (2003) - Lars von Trier
The latest galvanizing and controversial film from Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves, The Kingdom), Dogville uses ingenious theatricality to tell the Depression-era story of Grace (Nicole Kidman, The Others), a beautiful fugitive who stumbles onto a tiny town in the Rocky Mountains. Spurred on by Tom (Paul Bettany, Master and Commander), who fancies himself the town's moral guide, the citizens of Dogville first resist Grace, then embrace her, then resent and torment her--little realizing they will pay a price for their selfish brutality. The town is indicated by fragments of building and chalk outlines on a soundstage floor, stylishly pointing to the movie's roots in classic plays (particularly Thornton Wilder's Our Town and Friedrich Durrenmatt's The Visit). Several critics have stridently attacked Dogville as anti-American, but the movie's dark, compelling view applies as easily to Rwanda, Bosnia, the Middle East, or pretty much anywhere in the world. Also featuring Lauren Bacall, Patricia Clarkson, Jeremy Davies, Stellan Skarsgârd, Chloe Sevigny, and many more. --Bret Fetzer for Amazon.com
The Five Obstructions (2003) - Lars Von Trier
The Five Obstructions (2003) - Lars Von Trier--http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0354575/
Lars von Trier, the Danish director of "Breaking the Waves," "Dancer in the Dark," and "Dogville" returns with a strange and brilliant meta-film. In 2000, he challenged his mentor, the veteran filmmaker Jorgen Leth, to a one-of-a-kind director's game: von Trier would give Leth rules, or obstructions, by which Leth would have to remake his own 1967 short film "The Perfect Human"--five times.
The first film, according to von Trier's rules, has to be composed of shots no longer than 12 frames and must be filmed in Cuba, without a set. Fast forward to Havana: Leth has found a solution to the difficulties and is making his film with confidence. With satanic glee, von Trier comes up with an even more constraining set of obstructions, clearly taking pleasure in torturing his former teacher. He attempts to find the most crippling rules and devises appropriate punishment when Leth fails to follow them.
Lars von Trier is no stranger to sadism: this is the man responsible for the abuse of Emily Watson, Bjork, and Nicole Kidman in his last three features. "The Five Obstructions" makes it clear that his apparent mean streak is considered, focused, and aimed at a kind of creative catharsis. His agenda is to strip away the pretense, to get from the "perfect" to the "human," as he puts it.
Von Trier is hoping to force his former teacher to make a bad movie, a "pile of crap," but the truth is that creativity feeds on limits: the resulting short films are all terrific. To see how Leth discovers ways to use the devilish obstructions to his advantage is nothing short of thrilling. "Everything inspires you!" the frustrated von Trier complains. The directors' game reveals itself as something more than an empty exercise in style: von Trier had a secret agenda all along, but by the time the fifth film unreels, the ambiguities have multiplied, and it's not clear anymore who exposed himself more, or who obstructed whom. In this creative mindgame, the only clear winner is the audience. --Jurgen Fauth, Creativity Loves Limits in von Trier's Thrilling Meta-Film http://worldfilm.about.com/od/scandinavianfilm/fr/5obstructions.htm [Jul 2004]
- Riget aka The Kingdom (1994) - Morten Arnfred, Lars von Trier [Amazon US]
The Kingdom defies categorization. This cult Danish miniseries plays like a nightmarish cross between Twin Peaks and Chicago Hope as directed by David Cronenberg, and even that hardly captures the giddy absurdity of Lars von Trier's soap-opera-cum-horror-tale. The setting is a modern hospital built on a medieval graveyard, but the most terrifying ghosts belong not to ancient history but rather to the hospital's own dark past. An egotistical, self-righteous visiting Swedish doctor, who abhors the Danes and screams his outrage in nightly rants from the hospital roof, presides over this ensemble of eccentrics; but he's hardly the strangest this hospital has to offer. ER has nothing on this delirious madhouse, where haunted ambulances, a Masonic cult, a devil cabal, demons, ghosts, and a most mysterious pregnancy lurk in the fringes of more earthly (though equally bizarre) melodramas. Shooting in video with a bobbing handheld camera, von Trier creates an otherworldly atmosphere with the dimly lit corridors and bland, drained color schemes, set to an eerily sparse soundtrack of echoing hospital sounds and electronic wailings. The mix of deadpan hysteria and spooky ghost story concludes with the most outrageous cliffhanger put on film (to be continued in The Kingdom II). (The home video also includes closing comments by a smiling von Trier himself, unseen in the theatrical version.) Simply put, you've never seen anything quite like this. --Sean Axmaker, amazon.com
- Breaking the Waves (1996) - Lars von Trier [Amazon US]
Set in an unmercifully rugged, coastal village in Scotland in the 1970s, this extraordinary film by Lars von Trier stars British actress Emily Watson as a barely contained naive named Bess, who holds regular conversations with God and whose pure and intensely personal faith is hardly tolerated by the gruesome Calvinist elders of her church. Bess marries an oil-rig worker (Stellan Skarsgard) and comes to believe that erotic discovery is a part of God's grand plan. But after her spouse is hurt in an accident, she decides that divine instruction is leading her toward the life of a prostitute--with disastrous but somehow beautiful results. Von Trier (The Kingdom) has made a wonderful, entirely unexpected, and rigorous work of discovery in this film, with a formal visual design that recalls classic films by Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson. Watson is a phenomenon, her wide-eyed wonder at the world as God's handiwork a breathtaking portrayal of conviction. --Tom Keogh, Amazon.com
- The Idiots (1998) - Lars von Trier [Amazon US]
It is a shame that more publicity has been made about the Dogma 95 experiment than about the products they rendered. So try looking beyond the Dogma stamp. The Idiots is an amazing film built upon a complex story and reveals elements of the human condition rarely revealed on the big screen. Von Trier is an expert at creating shocking cinema. Not only is it shocking because it is filmed differently than almost any other film you've seen, but it is also shocking because it is filled with nudity, vulgarity and controversial themes. It makes fun of mentally retarded adults under the guise of a serious social experiment. It has violent fights, an orgy scene... Despite all this, try looking beyond the shocking elements. What you will find beyond all the things that many critics chose not to look past is an emotionally powerful portrayal of a group of individuals searching for a way in which to view their identity in a way that is devoid of all social artifices. It is a story of a people trying to actively live out an idea that there is something essential about their being which can be reached through an extreme modification of their behaviour. It becomes increasingly clear throughout the narrative that these people are running away from who they are rather than finding something essential. The emotional tension that is being withheld slowly rises to the surface and culminates in one of the most devastating scenes I've ever witnessed. It is moving not just because it deals with death, but because it illuminates in an exaggerated fashion the way in which people in society today hide from themselves and subsequently reveal themselves to be frail and insecure. Of course, all of the elements that go into making this such a shocking film are inextricably incorporated into the emotional power created. You need to watch this film while withholding moral judgements and consider the issues that are being so skilfully portrayed in a way no other director was able to do before Dogma 95. --Eric Karl Anderson, amzon.com
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