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 Post subject: Lars von Trier
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:07 am 
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Lars von Trier (1956 - )

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"My films are about ideals that clash with the world. Every time it's a man in the lead, they have forgotten about the ideals. And every time it's a woman in the lead, they take the ideals all the way."

Filmography

Theatrical Features
Images of Liberation (1982)
The Element of Crime (1984)
Epidemic (1987)
Europa (1991)
Breaking the Waves (1996)
The Idiots (1998)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
The Five Obstructions [documentary] (2003)
Dogville (2003)
Manderlay (2005)
The Boss of It All (2006)
Antichrist (2009)
Melancholia (2011)
Nymphomaniac: Volume I (2013)
Nymphomaniac: Volume II (2013)
The House That Jack Built (2018)

Short Films
Turen til Squashland (1967)
Nat, skat (1968)
En røvsyg oplevelse (1969)
Et skakspil (1969)
Hvorfor flygte fra det du ved du ikke kan flygte fra? Fordi du er en kujon (1970)
En blomst (1971)
The Orchid Gardener (1977)
Menthe: La bienheureuse (1979)
Nocturne (1980)
The Last Detail (1981)
D–Dag [segment: "Lice"] (2000)
To Each His Own Cinema [segment: "Occupations"] (2007)
Dimension (2010)

Television
Medea [telefilm] (1988)
The Kingdom [miniseries] (1994)
The Kingdom II [miniseries] (1997)

Web Resources
GQ Interview with von Trier
Stellan Skarsgård On His Long, Ongoing Collaboration with Lars von Trier
PT Anderson Talks with Lars von Trier
2014 Interview on Sobriety

All Those Things That Are to Die: Antichrist
Lars von Trier on Breaking the Waves
Europa: Night Train
The Element of Crime
Breaking the Waves: Breaking the Rules

Print Resources
Contemporary Film Directors: Lars von Trier by Linda Badley
Lars von Trier Interviews by Jan Lumholdt
Trier on von Trier by Stig Bjorkman

Forum Discussion
80 The Element of Crime
454 Europa
705 Breaking the Waves
542 Antichrist
The Idiots (Lars von Trier, 1998)
Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)
Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier, 2013)


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:22 am 
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lordrsb wrote:
I've been fascinated by von Trier's films since Dogme '95 was covered in a film module I took during my first year at uni (2005-6). I watched The Idiots, of course, for an essay on the subject (although I preferred Festen, one of my favourite films), and have since watched the Europe (or 'E') trilogy, Dogville and Manderlay (in the wrong order), and Breaking the Waves. Although I find his films engaging and formally interesting, I've never been especially moved by them - and therefore, am not inclined to count any of them amongst my favourites; however, I think his oeuvre is more consistently brilliant than directors who have produced some of my favourite films. I also feel the same way about Tarkovsky: his work is beautiful, but a little too distant for me to feel emotionally involved. (That is, that both directors don't appeal to my aesthetic nor primitive emotions.)

I'll always be excited by the prospect of watching a new film by him (or an old one that I haven't previously seen, e.g. Dancer in the Dark). Does anyone else have similar feelings with regards to other directors, or even von Trier? Of course, feel free to heartily disagree with me, too.

Amusingly enough, you seem to have missed out on all my favourite Von Triers - The Kingdom (I & II), The Five Obstructions and The Boss of It All.

And they're my favourites because they're the films of his that are most honest about the fact that his entire career is essentially one long provocation - and while this can be highly annoying in a film that otherwise seems to take itself seriously, with those it just adds to the entertainment value.

The Five Obstructions is particularly successful in this respect - and weirdly moving, too, since it's ultimately a film about a creative individual (the real-life Jorgen Leth) triumphing over Von Trier's petty and arbitrary rules.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:38 am 
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MichaelB wrote:
The Five Obstructions is particularly successful in this respect - and weirdly moving, too, since it's ultimately a film about a creative individual (the real-life Jorgen Leth) triumphing over Von Trier's petty and arbitrary rules.

And von Trier fully celebrating that triumph!

I like all von Triers films (with perhaps the ending of Breaking The Waves being the only exception, something I discussed in the Nitpicking thread) but I think people get upset by his work because he is using extremely emotional and provocative material in a distanced manner, viewing orchestrated chaos with a wryly amused eye that can come across as taking a superior position to his characters and his manipulations of his audience. I wouldn't say he has a fundamentally 'ironic' approach to his material because I sense a real love there for the characters he is manipulating and the worlds he is manufacturing (including Jorgen Leth!)

There is a fascinating tension between the extremely staged and hands on elements and those chaotic aspects of the stories that scupper the attention to detail such as murder, rape, the handheld camerawork, the workings of the creative process, the terrorist bombs and underground resistance groups that seem to inform each other, as if von Trier is trying to understand the pattern of the unexplainable, the clubs with bizarre rules for members, the insane or the compulsive acts and the ritualistic and sacramental elements of the world, and has great sympathy for characters whose lives go off the rail due to circumstances beyond their control. In a sense he seems to be trying to create a kind of purpose behind absurd and horrible events to make the world feel more understandable, rather than just arbitrary and cruel, for his protagonists.

There's also the question of whether living in your own self-defined world is a good tactic for staying safe and dealing with the wider world in a more easily digestible manner, or whether in the long term it causes an even greater problem in the way it can skew your view of the world and attitude to yourself and others. It can also cause you to treat outsiders to your world worse because of the way they aren't a part of your society. And when the collapse comes (which it inevitably does in a von Trier film), these created, insular worlds falling apart usually are caused by or lead to the death of the creators (or by the charade being impossible to keep up) because they cannot exist outside of their worldview whose parameters are set by the film (or to put it another way the characters are Gods of their small microcosms of the wider world and at the same time completely insignificant and unimportant outside of it).


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 5:27 pm 
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This thread makes more sense as a discussion of von Trier, but to address your other question:

lordrsb wrote:
Does anyone else have similar feelings with regards to other directors, or even von Trier?

I don't get excited by the prospect of a new von Trier film and my tastes in his work seem similar to Michael B's - he should make more comedies (by the way, if you're a cultist, check out The Early Years, his 'autobiographical' film, which is pretty funny). However, I do eagerly anticipate new work by (off the top of my head and in order of increasing infrequency): Tsai, Weerasethakul, Denis, Hou, Svankmajer, Tarr and Erice. Assayas, too: although he's much less reliable, I haven't seen anything to indicate that another L'eau froide or Irma Vep is out of the question. Oddly enough, there are other filmmakers whose work I generally love but who don't generate that same level of anticipation I took you to mean by "similar feelings".


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2008 1:01 am 
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lordrsb wrote:
I've been fascinated by von Trier's films since Dogme '95 was covered in a film module I took during my first year at uni (2005-6). I watched The Idiots, of course, for an essay on the subject (although I preferred Festen, one of my favourite films), and have since watched the Europe (or 'E') trilogy, Dogville and Manderlay (in the wrong order), and Breaking the Waves.

You mention Breaking the Waves, and out of curiosity does A Woman Under the Influence get under your skin at all or no?


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:04 pm 
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colinr0380 wrote:
I think people get upset by his work because he is using extremely emotional and provocative material in a distanced manner, viewing orchestrated chaos with a wryly amused eye that can come across as taking a superior position to his characters and his manipulations of his audience [...] There is a fascinating tension between the extremely staged and hands on elements and those chaotic aspects of the stories that scupper the attention to detail such as murder, rape, the handheld camerawork, the workings of the creative process [...] as if von Trier is trying to understand the pattern of the unexplainable [...] and has great sympathy for characters whose lives go off the rail due to circumstances beyond their control. In a sense he seems to be trying to create a kind of purpose behind absurd and horrible events to make the world feel more understandable, rather than just arbitrary and cruel, for his protagonists.

Your observations of his directorial approach highlight a number of factors that make his films appealing, engaging, dazzling: every aspect seems incredibly formalised, as if it all agrees to an holistic formula for each film's (or trilogy's) idiom. This makes him fascinating, but I would count myself in the camp of those, who you make reference to, who aren't emotionally engaged in his vision because of his "distanced manner". (In this respect, he is like Godard; although I enjoy most of von Trier, whereas I prefer Godard before he became Godard, e.g. À Bout de Souffle.)

exte wrote:
You mention Breaking the Waves, and out of curiosity does A Woman Under the Influence get under your skin at all or no?

I've not seen A Woman Under the Influence - in fact, I'll admit a total ignorrance of Cassavetes that I've been planning to rectify for a while. Is that film a wise place to begin?


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:30 am 
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Rarely does he guide the audience to use impulse while watching his films, and when he does use it, his masterful ability to take your impulses and throw them back in your face is often quite clever.

In many of his films, characters are continuously abused, and I think the entire time, "Fight back!" By the end of the movie, I am thinking, "Well, not like that."

Emotion and impulse are merely parts of his intellectual spectrum. Distancing like someone who brags at a party about how many things they know, but intriguing and alluring like a really smart yet odd uncle with stories from a life you never knew existed.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:39 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:04 am
a lot of cliches being recycled here:

1/ That von Trier-light (the kingdom, boss of it all) is preferable to von Trier-proper (Idioterne, Europa, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville)...

I think to truly appreciate von Trier's work one needs to to acknowledge the emotional sincerity in these latter films, regardless of the archness and the alienation techniques. There would be no point in making a film that is "just provocation". This is not von Trier's goal.

2/ That Festen is preferable to Idioterne....

Dogma '95 = Idioterne. The manifesto was basically designed to compliment this film and it is still probably von Trier's greatest achievement. Festen is an overrated stage play with some funky angles.

3/ That A Bout de Souffle is the best Godard film...

Probably best not to even get into this, although Godard himself felt the need to start again in 1975 with Numero Deux, his "second first film".


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:41 am 
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Nothing wrote:
Festen is an overrated stage play with some funky angles.

You're welcome to your opinion.

Nothing wrote:
Godard himself felt the need to start again in 1975 with Numero Deux, his "second first film".

I haven't seen it; I've only seen what little Godard I've had easy access to. (If he effectively repudiated Breathless then I guess I'm not a Godard fan at all.) I might not be qualified to make a judgment; I was simply drawing a parallel based on my own experiences. I found Pierrot le Fou entertaining and an hilarious send-up of all the picaresque road-trip cliches; Weekend, I thought, was mostly dross - some good self-conscious moments, but the political polemic was far too crassly integrated into the 'narrative' (not that I'm a stickler for linearity or even plotting at all - I simply find his disregard for it dull rather than inventive). I know how much Godard is loved, but I'm guided by my instinctive aesthetic taste rather than critical reason.

Nothing wrote:
a lot of cliches being recycled here

I don't know if anything I contribute is part of the film messageboard hegemony - I'm new here - but I'm inclined to think that you are referring to the opinions expressed on this thread as 'cliched' because you do not agree with them. For example, I had imagined that Idioterne was more popular than Festen, at least judging by their respective distribution (you can't even buy the latter on DVD in England; whereas von Trier's film is available in pretty much any major video shop). I suppose I must be mistaken; and, if I conform to a cliche, so be it.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 01, 2008 5:54 am 

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Yes, Godard was embarassed by A Bout de Souffle, and one can see why. Even by Vivre Sa Vie, his (and Couthard's) filmmaking skills has improved immeasurably. As for Week End, this is Godard at his very best - incisive, imaginative, intelligent and extremely funny.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 1:20 am 
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Nothing wrote:
Even by Vivre Sa Vie, his (and Couthard's) filmmaking skills has improved immeasurably. As for Week End, this is Godard at his very best - incisive, imaginative, intelligent and extremely funny.

Vivre Sa Vie is on my list to watch. As for Week End, my existence blew up in my face after I saw that film. Everything I knew about movies was over. Too bad I only own a VHS copy as the New Yorker DVD doesn't do this film justice. I have harassed Criterion a few times about Week End in low hopes. Some day?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 1:32 am 

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The Artificial Eye DVD of Week End is very good.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 1:39 am 
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Nothing wrote:
The Artificial Eye DVD of Week End is very good.

Perhaps it is time for a region-free DVD player in home. Thank you! I will investigate.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:43 pm 
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Koukol wrote:
Does anyone know the [Nymphomaniac] story?
I'm wondering if it will fit along my favorites BREAKING THE WAVES and DANCER IN THE DARK as a tragic tale.

I thought those were comedies?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:44 pm 
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No, no, you're thinking of Dogville. Now that one was a knee-slapper!


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:09 pm 
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I was being serious actually. What little triumphs I find for von Trier mostly reside in his ability to turn laughs from really horrible situations (meeting their high point so far with Melancholia and its absolute joy at the end of the world). The meat of his material really is grotesque, but the way he plays it is uproarious.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:25 pm 
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I'd also classify Von Trier as a serio-comic director, whose best works are deliciously straight-faced Trojan horses that tease and cajole some of the worst aspects of both his audience's nature and his own. Antichrist, Riget, and The Idiots are all wonderful films in this regard, but I think just as often he is unable to maintain the balancing act and teeters into self-pity, mysticism and cruelty (Europa, Melancholia, The Element of Crime). However, to willingly and wittily do battle with such unpleasant elements of human nature is always a worthy endeavor, no matter the outcome.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:32 pm 
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Has anyone seen the straight comedy that he did, The Boss of it All? I'd be curious to see how he handled a completely comedic movie.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:40 pm 
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Correct answer: by handing over the handling of it to a computer programme that randomly determined framing and camera movement.

It's a pretty funny movie that tends to overegg its concept.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:41 pm 
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It was my first of his actually. It's pretty funny with only a couple of his usual flares. He attempts to hinge the climax on a reverse Brecht if that makes sense as an explanation which sinks the ship pretty awfully, but otherwise it is enjoyable.
Edit: What Zedz said


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:48 pm 
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It's like the promising pilot for a TV comedy that then tries to abruptly pre-empt the entire series.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:50 pm 
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That's exactly it. Would make a fantastic The Office type of program but remains okay as a movie.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:06 am 
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What would the rest of that imaginary series be about anyway? I think the feature film is all that's necessary and what's there strikes me as funnier than either version of The Office. I don't get all the faint praise for The Boss of It All. It's a very good film, such that if anyone but Von Trier had made it (and, okay, if it had actual camerawork), it would likely have a much higher profile. Von Trier's two out and out comedies -- The Boss of It All and The Idiots -- are the works that made me interested in the rest of his oeuvre. Those above mourning the fact that Nymphomaniac isn't a P. Greenaway joint are forgetting/ignoring the devilish, prurient, juvenile sense of humor that's always been present in his work.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:16 am 

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The Idiots is hardly a comedy, while Boss of It All and Riget certainly are. Boss is a very humble movie, and one that I enjoy. Trier himself narrates and admits it is a trifle. Something along the lines of a Francis Veber comedy like the Dinner Game. If you guys like that, I would recommend Klown the show and movie. Trier actually directed one of the episodes (nothing special), but it shares a lot of actors and humor with Boss. Be warned that it is a direct rip-off of Curb your Enthusiasm.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:51 am 
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Quote:
self-pity, mysticism and cruelty

rather than losing balance and teetering into, i think most of his inspiration comes from these things - he's commented that he sees himself in his tortured female protagonists and knowing his endless neuroses and bouts of depression, i think it's safe to say that what others are seeing as over-the-top provocation only come out that way because they begin from his genuinely feeling what those films end up evoking

i take him completely seriously (not that there arent hysterically funny moments and images in all of his movies), he's my 2nd favorite director behind Godard, Breaking the Waves has been my favorite film for years and I vibrate in my seat cuz of anticipation every opening night of his new movies


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