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The films of Lars von Trier

Confronting the demons within to survive


































INTRODUCTION Lars von Trier is the most ambitious and visually distinctive filmmaker to emerge from Denmark since Carl Theodor Dreyer over 60 years earlier. Lars von Trier, a madman you must know in

phere he evokes in settings which, whether set in the

the film industry. Probably Lars von Trier is

present or past, somehow seem futuristic and other-

the most ambitious and visually distinctive

worldly. There are few directors as Lars von Trier who

filmmaker to emerge from Denmark since

receives the extremely good and bad evaluation at

Carl Theodor Dreyer over 60 years earlier.

the same time. Humanity is always his topic for his

Lars von Trier has been one of the controver-

films and he explores humanity with his stunning

sial that Danish­— indeed European—cinema

stories. Besides, von Trier brought up a new way

has produced in years. His reputation as one of

of making films called Dogme 95. This concept

a few genuine ‘enfants terribles’ of cinema in the

totally brings impact to the film industr y and

1980s and 90s does not stem simply from his call for

establishes an unique style of films. Lars von

Ingmar Bergman’s death (so that other Scandinavian

Trier is such a talented and controversial

filmmakers could receive more attention). Rather, the

director that you should get know him more

attention von Trier has justly received stems from his playful experimentation and the darkly haunting atmos-


through his films.




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BIOGRAPHY Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg brought up a manifesto for a new idea of cinema which called Dogma95. They believe that filmmakers should concentrate on the story and the actor’s performance. Lars von Trier, born in Denmark in 1956, was

to opposes expensive special effects and techniques.

raised by nudist Jewish Communist parents

They believe that filmmakers should concentrate on

who did not allow much room in their house-

the story and the actor’s performance. And then Lars

hold for “feelings, religion, or enjoyment”.

von Trier made films which followed Dogma95. The

The young Lars found in cinema an outlet to

Golden Heart trilogy is associated with the Dogma95.

the outside world through which he could learn

This series focuses on heroines with their pure hearts

about subjects other wise forbidden from his

no matter how hard the life is. This series includes

study by his parents. He began making his own

breaking the waves, the idiots, and dancer in the dark .

films at the age of 11 after receiving a Super-8 camera as a gift.

His mother revealed on her deathbed in 1995 that

During his time as a student at the Danish Film

the man he thought was his father was not. After

School his peers at the film school nicknamed him “von

an initial meeting with his real father, his real

Trier.” The name is sort of an inside-joke with the von part

father has refused to speak to him. After

suggesting nobility, while Lars and Trier are quite common names in Denmark. After graduation he began work on the

these revelations von Trier rebelled against his past and converted to Catholicism.

Europe trilogy which includes the element of crime, epidemic, and europa . This is a series of thriller movies. In 1995 Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg brought up a manifesto for a new idea of cinema which called Dogma95. This manifes



DOGME 95 A reaction against overblown budgets and cinematic excess, Dogme 95 may have failed to spark a revolution, but its aesthetic influence has spread across the world. D ogme 95 is an avant-garde filmmaking movement

They announced the Dogme movement on

started in 1995 by the Danish directors Lars von Trier

March 22, 1995 in Paris, at Le cinéma vers

and Thomas Vinterberg, who created the “Dogme 95

son deuxième siècle conference. The cinema

Manifesto” and the “Vow of Chastity”. These were rules

world had gathered to celebrate the first

to create filmmaking based on the traditional values

century of motion pictures and contemplate

of stor y, acting and theme, and excluding the use of

the uncertain future of commercial cinema.

elaborate special effects or technology. They were

Called upon to speak about the future of film,

later joined by fellow Danish directors Kristian Levring

Lars von Trier showered a bemused audience

and Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, forming the Dogme 95

with red pamphlets announcing “Dogme 95”.

Collective or the Dogme Brethren. Dogme is the Danish word for dogma.

In response to criticism, Von Trier and Vinter-

The genre gained international appeal partly because

to establish a new extreme: “In a business of

berg have both stated that they just wanted of its accessibility. It sparked an interest in unknown filmmakers by suggesting that one can make a

extremely high budgets, we figured we should balance the dynamic as much as possible.”

recognised film of a quality to gain recognition, without being dependent on commissions or

The first of the Dogme films (Dogme #1) was Vinter-

huge Hollywood budgets. The directors used

berg’s 1998 film Festen (The Celebration). It was criti-

European government subsidies and televi-

cally acclaimed and won the Jur y Prize at the Cannes

sion station funding instead. The movement

Film Festival that year. Lars von Trier’s Dogme film,

has been criticized for being an attempt to

Idioterne (The Idiots), also premiered at Cannes that

gain media attention. Others hold that Dogme

year but was less successful. Since the two films were

was initiated to cause a stir and to make

released, other directors have made films based on

filmmakers and audiences re-think the art,

Dogme principles. French-American actor and director

effect and essence of filmmaking.

Jean-Marc Barr was the first non-Dane to direct a Dogme film: Lovers (1999) (Dogme #5). The American Harmony

The friends Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinter-

Korine’s movie Julien Donkey-Boy (Dogme #6) also was

berg wrote and co-signed the manifesto

considered a Dogme film.

and its companion “vows”. Vinterberg said


that they wrote the pieces in 45 minutes.

Het Zuiden (South) (2004), directed by Martin Koolhoven,

The manifesto initially mimics the wording

included thanks to “Dogme 95”. Koolhoven originally planned

of François Truffaut’s 1954 essay “Une

to shoot it as a Dogme film, and it was co-produced by

certaine tendance du cinéma français”

von Trier’s Zentropa. The director decided he did not want

in Cahiers du cinéma.

to be so severely constrained as by Dogme principles.


VOW OF CHASTITY • Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the stor y, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found. • The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic. • The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place. • The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera). • Optical work and filters are forbidden. • The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.) • Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now). • Genre movies are not acceptable. • The film format must be Academy 35 mm. • The director must not be credited.







By Hunter Vaughan


Dogme 95 has inescapably proven to be an anti-institution-comeinstitution, and the liberating thrust of its stipulations have produced an alternate code from which has materialized a canon. “What is Dogme 95?” Originally created

from photography. Siegfried Kracauer, in “Basic Concepts,”

by four Danish directors, Dogme 95 and

proposes that the spirit of photography survives in film,

its manifesto—the Vow of Chastity, which

perpetuating the classical purposes of photography: to

stipulates some ten rules demanding the

record, to reveal, and to reproduce. This becomes central

stripping down of the film-making process,

to cinematic realism, as Kracauer and others believed

the abandonment of plastic and post-produc-

that this inherently produced a “realistic tendency,”

tion manipulation, and the relinquishment of

toward which the fictitious aspects of mise-en-scene,

artistic intention—fall somewhere between

plastics, and post-production were arranged. In “The

avant-garde and publicity stunt. Its tenets and

Ontology of the Photographic Image,” André Bazin,

aspirations are ver y much the anti-tradition,

harbinger of cinematic realism, idealistically notes

countering dominant tendencies of cinema and

that, in the camera, there exists for the first time a

designing a basic framework through which to

non-living agent between the object and its repre-

subvert conventional film-making, the desired

sentation, a conjecture with dangerous ramifications

result of which should be a sort of improvisational

for the ideological manipulation of “ontology” and

process of collective film-making (Vinterberg),

the creation of an invisible code.

increased simplicity and pleasure (von Trier). These ontological notions reflect the early develHowever much it was intended to subvert the conven-

opment of film language, especially that of Clas-

tionality of traditional film language, though, Dogme

sical Holly wood which, congealed by D.W. Grif-

95 has inescapably proven to be an anti-institution-

fith, posited certain codes for the authenticity

come-institution, and the liberating thrust of its

of narrative reality. From eye-line matches to

stipulations have produced an alternate code from

cross-cutting, these compose the method through

which has materialized a canon. In no way is this meant

which cinema learned to suture itself into its final product, how to mask its own presence

to devalue these films in any way, and their attempt—to

beneath certain conventions of denotation

salvage reality from the Baudrillardian evil demons that have dissolved it into a platitudinous plenitude of images,

based on spatial-temporal verisimilitude to

to recover nature in an age of mechanical reproduction—is

nature. Though this forged still-dominant

noble almost to the point of being winsomely tragic. None-

conventions of cinematic language, the

theless, Dogme 95 has produced—appropriated, evolved,

development of film technology and theory

even recapitulated—the latest code of cinematic “realism,”

would challenge this code with alternate

a substantially poignant feat that must be considered in

“realisms” and, eventually, reveal the ideo-

all its ramifications, beginning with its position along

logical ramifications of any such code.

the genealogy of cinematic realism and the ideology of

From the grim socialist stages of Soviet

the photographic code.

Realism, to the kitchen-sink grittiness of John Grierson’s Depression-era documen-

One of the more pressing questions in (especially clas-

taries, to the portable-camera realisms of

sical) film theor y and histor y has been that of film’s

Italian Neo-Realism and Cinéma-Vérité, to

origins, whence it derives its aesthetic and ontological

the works of Dogme 95, these codes of realism

position. For many, the answer to this lay in the most

were each embedded with unique ideological

obvious place: photography, and much of cinematic

thrusts, and their fate would be the paradox

criticism has involved the fact that film is film, that it

existing between film and reality. Even Bazin

derives its mechanical and representational praxis

acknowledges this as the aesthetic paradox of



“realism” : the faithful reproduction of reality is

tative reproduction from reality to medium.

not art, thus setting the conflict between art and

While Metz would later expand this theor y to

truth (or, film-as-story vs. film-as-history) as the

consider the connotative coding of cinema, he

crux of cinematic realism. Bazin’s championing

proposes important implications of the denota-

of Italian Neo-Realism in the 1950s thus poses

tive function: since denotation is motivated by

a decisive shift in the notion of film from one of

analogy, its ontological claim is one to similarity

art to one of phenomenological discourse, more

between signifier and signified. Realism, unan-

ontological than aesthetic, in which case cinematic

nounced and unrealized, tucked within the classical spectator’s naïve division of fiction and fact.

histor y is one of resemblance, of realism.

Classical Hollywood and its adherents managed to Bazin’s paradox became a fundamental aspect

code fiction into reality and succeeded, by production

of post-structuralism, refracting itself over

and post-production means, to remove any trace of

the entire discourse of film’s ontological and

the code; this success had a profound impact on the

ideological ramifications. The deflowering of

primitive evolution of cinematic language, for it was a

film’s truth-claim resulted primarily from the

connotative and coded discourse that had successfully

advent of structuralism, and was co-dependent

managed to erase its codes and to render the illusion

on the development of Althusserian Marxism

of pure denotation.

and theories of ideology, the combination of which produced a radical re-evaluation of

This codification of film language has had severe

cultural “realism.” Perhaps the apotheosis of this

implications—oh, Jakobson!—for the relation-

trend was Roland Barthes’ S/Z (1974), a detailed

ship between film and reality (both the reality

analysis of the structural codes of literary realism,

of what is being filmed, and those who are

which reveals the realist text as but an interweaving

watching it), as film is in fact not a denotative

of different codes, in no way afforded some privileged

medium bereft of ideological agency, nor is

relationship with the natural world. This demystifica-

analogy itself without selection and rhetoric.

tion with the conventions of “realism,” one of Barthes’

As Jean-Louis Comolli notes in “Machines

greatest legacies, is integral in the development of

of the Visible,” all analogical representation

the psycho-semiotics of film theor y, especially film

is false representation, and not reduplica-

language and spectator and apparatus theories.

tion. The camera, Comolli acknowledges, is at the intersection of two discourses:

Central to the (post-)structuralist reconsideration of

ideology and science. The phenomenological

the cinematic apparatus is the analysis of the semi-

position of this intersection results in the

otic process of filmic discourse, expounded upon in

repression of the invisible (the mode of

depth by Christian Metz; at the same time, critics had

production) by the visible (final product),

to completely renovate theories of the photographic

thus tying photography and cinema to the

image in its ideological context in the history of Western

Western tradition of seeing and vision, the

post-Renaissance visual codes, especially in relation

hierarchy of Arts. According to Baudry,

to Renaissance painting, which established the rules of

this process of hiding promotes an ideo-

perspective upon which is based the photographic lens.

logical effect (as opposed to a knowledge

What emerges from these approaches is the subject-

effect) bound to the tradition of Western

in-relation-to-apparatus that accounts for the technical

painting, which structures representation

and psychoanalytic ramifications of the invisibility of

around the humanist, centralized and

cinematic “realism.”

unified subject. Masking the ideology of analogy behind the claim of denotation,


In Film Language, Metz proposes an analysis of film

Classical cinematic language “produces

as it was developed from the beginning, not as some

effects of repetition and analogy which

inherently natural or ontological characteristic, but as

imply the disavowal of difference and

an industrial technology; as early cinematic histor y

which make the self the driving force

was primarily narrative, its language was forged as a

for analogical configuration.”


denotative system of narration. Whereas connotative study of film presupposed film as an art form, its early

Baudry asserts this relation to painting

narrative evolution secreted the codes of diegesis, or

through cinema’s adaptation of Italian

language. Metz draws on the Barthesian idea, moreover,

Renaissance perspective and frame

that film is pure visual transfer, uncodified in its deno-

ratio, which portray a fullness and



The quest for renewal succeeded, only to be conventionalized, to be no longer new-Dogme, by necessity of being a code, became a dogma. homogeneity of “being.” This mode of representa-

classical cinema, based along the lines of the

tion claims verisimilitude to the subject-position

classic realist text instituted in nineteenth-

of classical humanist identity, thus posing an

century literature, employ various techniques

ideological code as a denotation of reality. The

and stages of manipulation in order to supply

optical apparatus of the camera obscura (and,

the spectator with a real subject-position, but,

thus, its heirs), having adopted this perspectiva

the manner in which this is projected as realism

artificalis, renders itself, the eye (or “I”) of a

says something fundamental about realism as we

humanist subject, as the center or origin of

know it (and how we know it). The classic realist

meaning. While this could conceivably discredit

text, MacCabe asserts, cannot deal with the real as

the truth-claim of such representation (after

contradictory, and thus must neutralize any differ-

all, the necessity of a subject seems in conflict

ence by creating a hierarchy of discourses based on

with the autonomous permanence of objects),

an empirical notion of truth; realism, as a code of

it is so carefully sutured into the code of

the Western post-Renaissance symbolic, requires the

cinematic realism that it dissolves all aspects

monologic negation of difference in order to ensure for

of its being mechanical reproduction and,

the subject the position of (pseudo-)dominant specularity.

through subject-identification, convinces

Baudr y, considering the movement of the camera as

the spectator that it is in fact natural, or

producer of the “transcendental subject,” embalmed

even nature.

with the panaceas of formal and narrative continuity, suggests that the dependence on the negation of

In his essay on the suturing of the cinematic

difference creates a coded écriture as a system

process, “The Tutor-Code of Classical Cinema,”

of material base and countersystem (ideology)

Daniel Dayan considers the relevant relation between

which uses and conceals the system.

Lacan’s three levels of reality: nature, culture, and the symbolic (through which nature is trans-

In light of these developments in the study of

ferred into culture). In cinema, the camera ultimately

cinematic codes, the histor y of “realism” has

performs the symbolic function, thus transferring

suffered almost three decades of dormancy,

nature into culture via the field-of-vision organized

during which cinema was exposed for the illusion

by perspective to render the perception of the subject.

it is and television and video modes assumed

Especially narrative cinema, which through its link

the truth-claim of visual culture. Until now.

to analogical fiction requires spectatorial disavowal

The Dogme 95 manifesto and its adherents,

(Comolli), posits itself as a subjective cinema, via the

by appropriating numerous conventions of

use of the frame to dissolve the code and to secure the

classical cinema and alternate codes of

ideology behind it, ultimately fooling the spectator by tying

cinematic “realism,” and by transforming

him/her to the fictional level instead of the filmic level.

them to meet the cultural standards of Realism posited by our technological


In his seminal text on realism, Colin MacCabe suggests that

praxis, have placed themselves in the

this status of a subjective cinema is achieved at the fairly

contextual history of cinematic realism

heavy cost of actual reality. Not only do the conventions of

and in rejection of cinematic aesthetics.


This results in many ways from the rejection of

This unity is finally completed by the supplementary

film-as-art, a debate throughout film’s history

union of method and meaning, in which the actual

that has been integrally tied into its claim to

cinematography of Dogme 95 including the adop-

truth and its ontological function, and one which

tion of previous “realist” technical trends, and

the Vow of Chastity severely reprimands (for its

especially the numerous implications of digital

glorification of both the autonomous work of art

film (gritty frame, shaky transportable frame,

and the lone genius of the auteur). However, as we

lack of depth-of-field) binds the apparatus to

will henceforth discuss, the principles and practices

the characters in front of the camera.

of Dogme 95 confront and ultimately realize the paradox of “realism” in methods that subvert and

Digitalization the only cinematic method for

deny the ideological effects and nature of classical

rejecting the ideological pratfalls of analogy­—

cinema and its illusionar y claim to truth, while at

constitutes a new code of visual realism, and

the same time producing films that are as artistic

more than anything symbolizes the coherent

as modernist art-house cinema.

evolution of Dogmatic realism, which stems not from a locus of pedantry, but from innovation,

This subversion stems from a primary contradiction of

freshness and revolution (the anti-mainstream-

the conventions of the cinematic apparatus: instead of

cinema theoretical bent is made explicit,

hiding the invisible behind the visible, instead of suturing

and the spirit of the manifesto intended to

the ideological aspects of cinema into the airtight conven-

return film to the improvisational edge that

tions of classical narrative, through which method is hidden

came with film-production’s first wave of

behind the illusion of a different meaning, Dogme 95 is based upon the coincidence of method and meaning, a

technological mobilization, such as the Nouvelle Vague and the early Beatles’ films ).

fundamental ethos that is realized through a unified embrace of technological, formal, thematic and

Dogme 95 itself, the manifesto and movement,

narrative modes that, through revealing the nature

can be nothing more than it is: an ephemeral move-

of their own representational forms, establish

ment, a fleeting political statement that provided the

a claim to purity, honesty, and insanity (that is,

artistic atmosphere for the creation of the films that

the madness of schizophrenia inherent in any

combine ensemble methodology into the scope of

object or essence forced through conventions of

auteurism, that plead anti-genre even in the cesspool

the superego to claim fixed homogeneity where

of agreed-upon rules. Discussing the title of his

there is perpetually fluxing heterogeneity).

interview concerning Dogme 95, Vinterberg sums it up perfectly: “Maybe you should write ‘Dogme

Purity is achieved through the principle of unadul-

is Dead!’ The explanation is simple: That Dogme

terated representation, expressed through the

is turning into convention exactly like the conven-

logistic limits of filming on location; the denial

tions we tried to avoid, and is the end initiatives

of artificial props, sound or lighting (including

like this must come to.” The quest for renewal

camera filters); and the narrative rejection of

succeeded, only to be conventionalized, to be no

artificial action. This purity of being “on location”

longer new-Dogme, by necessity of being a code,

is complemented by the honesty of being “in loca-

became a dogma.

tion,” the rigid unity of space and time achieved not through the invisible post-production tricks of montage, but through the visible method by which cinema maintains a single spatial-temporal locus in its ontological ability to record sight and sound together, to capture the motion of life in the moment (and not in an editing room).



INTERVIEW sean o’hagan, the observer.

12 july 2009

Lars von Trier describes Antichrist as the most important film of his life, yet Cannes critics booed and hissed throughout its premier. But one thing is certain, it is very provocative and gruellingly violent. A strange thing happens 10 minutes into my interview with

falling to his death from an upstairs

Lars von Trier. I am sitting in an armchair in his office,

window, all played out to a heart-

a spacious cabin on the edge of his sprawling Zentropa

breakingly sad aria from Handel. I can

studio complex. Von Trier is sitting opposite me on a

think of no other director working today

couch. He is talking about his latest film, Antichrist, which he began during a bout of debilitating depression.

who could pull off such a bravura—and disturbing—opening sequence.

“There was no pleasure in doing this film,” he says, “I

Even that scene, though, does not prepare

made myself write 10 pages of script ever y day. The

you for the scenes of graphic Ballardian

only way to get out of bed was to make this decision and

sexual violence that follow. In one sequence,

stick to it. When it came to filming, I was not mentally

having pounded her husband’s genitals with

capable to hold the camera and shoot. I was helpless

a brick, Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character—

like an old man in a wheelchair. It was a humiliating

simply referred to as “She”—drills a hole through his leg, inserts an iron bar though

way to work.” As he talks, von Trier shakes off his shoes, lies down on the couch and closes his eyes. I sit quietly and take notes. It all feels very strange: the interview as therapy session. Von Trier, though, seems perfectly relaxed. It is only when I begin questioning him about the sadistic horrors that he visits on the audience in Antichrist - a penis spurting blood, a graphic depiction of female genital self-mutilation - that he suddenly sits up straight again and looks uncomfortable.

it, and attaches the bar to a heavy iron wheel. I tell von Trier that, having sat through his film, I was genuinely worried not about Gains-

bourg’s character’s mental health but his own. He, of course, finds this funny. “You’re right to worr y”, he says, laughing, “but it is not good to worr y about something you cannot do anything about. Truthfully, I can only say I was driven to make the film, that these images came to me and I did not question them. My only defence is: ‘Forgive

“This does not feel good,” he says. “There are

me, for I know not what I do.’” This precipitates a

some things it is not good to explain or analyse.

bout of giggling. “I am really the wrong person to

And, also, my explanations are always banal

ask what the film means or why it is as it is,” he says

and stupid.”

finally, “It is a bit like asking the chicken about the

This sounds suspiciously like a cop-out from

chicken soup.” Lars von Trier is one of life’s great gigglers. This,

taboos. Von Trier was, after all, the first film-

among other things, surprises me. I have come to

maker outside the hardcore porn genre to show

Copenhagen to interrogate contemporary cinema’s

full penetrative sex. In Antichrist he does it again,

brooding, depressive, misanthropic maverick but he

this time in slow-motion close-up, during the

keeps metamorphosing into a naughty schoolboy.

poetic bout of marital sexual intercourse that

There is something infectious about his sudden

begins the film. The abandoned lovemaking is

outbreaks of jollity. You can see why the staff who

intercut with a scene of the couple’s infant son

wander the Zentropa grounds and populate the



a man dedicated to the breaking of cinematic

his demons through his films, though Antichrist,

huts of this old army camp seem both reverent towards him and protective of him. Though he

interestingly, brought him neither peace nor

has a reputation as a bully, he comes across as

catharsis. “It was,” he says, “a kind of hell.”

quite childlike and oddly vulnerable.

In the press notes for the film he describes it, in

Like David Lynch, whose cinematic presence

a phrase borrowed from his hero, the Swedish

is palpable in the early, eerie scenes in Anti-

dramatist (and misogynist), August Strindberg,

christ—the strange noises off-camera are very

as his “inferno crisis”. He also insists it is “the

Lynchian—one of von Trier’s singular gifts is that

most important film of my entire career”, a view

he can convince actors to do things they would

not altogether shared by critics at Cannes, many

never dream of doing for anyone else. Nicole

of whom hissed and booed their way though the

Kidman, Hollywood’s reigning ice maiden, spent

festival screening.

what seemed like hours dragging a dead weight around the Brechtian set of Dogville.

At a subsequent press conference, the man from the Daily Mail stood up, visibly shaking with the

In Antichrist, there are only two characters: Char-

accumulated anger of middle England, and demanded

lotte Gainsbourg’s “She”, driven to the point of

that von Trier “defend” and “ justify” the film. To

violent derangement by her grief for her dead

the director’s credit, he refused to do either. “I

child, and Willem Dafoe’s “He”, her infuriatingly

can understand his rage,” he says, “but wanting

rational psychoanalyst husband. Both possess

me to justify my work, that is over the top. I don’t

that strange, slightly detached intensity that has

think I have to do that. Ever. When I show a film

always made me wonder if, in fact, they are simply

at a festival, I am showing myself. Ever ything is

bad actors. In a strange way, though, this works

at stake for me. Plus,” he adds, giggling again,

in the film’s favour. Antichrist is so disturbingly

“it is my party and the journalists are guests. It

bonkers, you wonder if their woodenness is all part

felt to me at one point like it was the other way

of von Trier’s deranged masterplan. Be warned,

around, that the journalists were running the

though, the violence is relentless and nasty.

party and I was the invited guest.”

Having tortured her husband, Gainsbourg’s madwoman

Was he hurt, though, by the chorus of outrage

then turns on herself, and, in the scene that so enraged

at Cannes? “No. But what hurts me is when

the critics at Cannes earlier in the year, cuts off her

people carr y on during the screening with

clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors - all this in graphic,

their negativity and mocking laughter. Yes,

lingering detail. Antichrist will certainly do nothing to

this hurts. For sure.” He lapses into silence

dispel the notion that von Trier is a misogynist, though

again and I notice that his hands seem to

Gainsbourg, for one, thinks this reading is too simplistic.

have a permanent tremble. “No matter how

“I really trusted him,” she said recently. “That’s also why I find it unjust when people say he hates women. I really have the impression that I was playing him, that he was the woman, that he was going through that miser y, the physical condition, the panic attacks.” This may be nearer the mark. Von Trier is, as he gleefully admits, a slave to his anxieties, his myriad neuroses. He won’t fly and famously travels from Copenhagen to the Cannes film festival by camper van. Once, when he had to cross the Channel to England to promote a film, he was carried off the ferry in a catatonic state. He tries to exorcise 22

ridiculous it might seem,” he continues, “the film, like all my work, is made from what I would call a pure heart. I am not ever trying to, as you say in England, take the piss.” Nevertheless, von Trier’s talent to provoke seems as effortless as it is extreme. He made his name with the austere and emotionally draining Breaking the Waves (1996), the first part of what he called the Golden Heart Trilogy, in which “good women are overwhelmed by a bad world”. To many of


“If his creation is so great, why does God want us on our knees?“ —Lars von Trier

his detractors, though, the essential problem with the trilogy was the fact that the female actors were overwhelmed - emotionally and physically - by von Trier’s directorial cruelty.

almost too easy so, of course, it is not really for me.” By the time Dogville came out, von Trier’s so-called misogyny was almost overlooked in the chorus of outrage that greeted his supposed anti-American stance. Like The Idiots, it is a hard film to watch in one sitting.

The accusations of misogyny began in

Kidman’s character, Grace, on the run from her gang-

earnest with Dancer in the Dark (2000),

ster father, is initially given shelter by the good folk

a warped musical that starred Björk as a

of Dogville, then exploited - first as an unpaid menial

blind simpleton-come-saint. During filming,

worker, then as a sex slave. She is fitted with an iron

she was reportedly driven to the edge of

neck brace and bell, and shackled to a dead weight.

her sanity by von Trier’s bullying, and, at one point attempted to eat her costume in protest - which, ironically, is exactly the kind of overwrought scene one might see in a von Trier film. Björk later accused him of “emotional

Dogville is protracted and unwieldy but, like all von Trier’s films, it is not without its moments. “One of my techniques,” he says, “is to defend an idea or a view that is not mine. So, for instance, it could be that I

pornography”. He giggles when I remind him.

make a film about the human side of Hitler. That would be ver y interesting to me.”

I remember thinking von Trier had a singular gift for provocation when I attended a press screening

I tell him that I can’t wait. He nods, either ignoring,

of The Idiots (1998), that culminated with a journalist

or not registering, my sarcasm. “I mean, to try

stomping off during the final credits shouting, “Bollocks!”

to defend Hitler’s actions,” he says, excitedly,

repeatedly. The film adhered to the so-called “rules

“this is a difficult one even for me.” When the

of chastity” of his Dogme 95 movement - only hand-

giggles have subsided, I ask him if, underneath

held cameras and natural light, no sound dubbing or

all the provocation and liberal-baiting, he

extraneous visual effects - and focused on a group of

is, in fact, a political filmmaker. “Perhaps.

young Danes who pretended to be mentally retarded in

You know, I really do have some morals.

order to shock mainstream society out of its supposedly

I do actually care about people. And I do

patronising complacency. Despite its questionable taste

have a political standpoint.”

and the inclusion of a grimly realistic orgy scene and a

Could he define it? “Well, my father said that

brief glimpse of hardcore penetration, it has since made it

the way in which a country treats its guests

on to the Danish Ministry of Culture’s canon of great Danish

is the way you can judge its moral life, it’s

films. Von Trier responded by saying the gesture was “like

moral state. Right now, this country is

something the Nazis would have done”. Is he never satisfied?

in a terrible state. It is so rightwing

“I am Danish!” he retorts, laughing. “In Denmark, there is a great tradition of provocation. In the 1960s, some people called themselves ‘Provos’ - provocateurs. You could say I am in this tradition but not really. It is not an unimportant thing to do but it is also not enough if one only sets out to provoke. It is


and against the minorities. You know about these cartoons, of course?” he asks, referring to the row that blew up after a Danish newspaper published insulting drawings of Muhammad.


“Evil gives you far more strings to pull. But I must say that I have never been interested in the psychology of evil, not in the slightest. Perhaps I’m not interested in evil, but in the dark sides of human beings.” “This is a rightwing paper who pretend to be for

“From my shamanic journeys,” he replies,

free speech when they just wanted to do damage

without batting an eyelid. “All these animals

to a ver y weak minority in this countr y. I’d never

come from a practice I did 10 years ago. It’s a

do a thing like that. If you want to provoke, you

Brazilian technique where you enter a trance through this ver y powerful drumbeat. There

should provoke someone who is stronger than

are no drugs involved so it is very safe but very

you, other wise you are misusing your power.”

powerful. It’s not really that difficult to enter

Nevertheless, the distance between Lars von

the parallel world.”

Trier’s intentions and his finished films often seems huge, no more so than with Antichrist.

And this is where you met the talking fox - in a

It starts off as a creepily Lynchian meditation

parallel universe? “Oh yes! When I first went there,

on the destabilising power of grief, flirts with

I met the fox that you see in the film. It was biting

the tropes of the Nordic fair ytale, the occult

itself and I was ver y shocked. It was unpleasant

mystery and the horror film, throws in a pretty

to watch so I travelled on until I saw a family of

basic critique of psychoanalysis for good measure,

silver foxes, very Disney-like, all the young ones

and then suddenly, bafflingly, sails way too close

and the grown-ups, running around. Happy

for comfort to the relentless and deadening torture

foxes.” I nod. What happened, then? “Well,

porn of genre films like Saw and Hotel - which, inci-

of course, I go up to speak to the man of

dentally, he claims not to have seen.

the family and - this is where it gets really

As if to bait his detractors even more, he then has the nerve to dedicate this bemusing, deranged but somehow

interesting - he said to me, ‘Never believe in the first fox you meet.’ Fantastic, yes?”

brilliant mess of a film to the memory of Andrei Tarko-

I nod uncertainly. Lars, though, has the

vsky, the great Soviet director, whose film, Mirror, von

giggles again.

Trier cites as his single most informative influence.

“I mean, come on!” he says, spluttering.

“I could have dedicated any of my films to him but this

“This is really the best possible advice

seemed so obvious,” he says. “I saw one little clip on

to give to someone who is working in

Swedish television when I was young and it stays with

the fucking film business.”

me forever - the people sitting on a fence, the wind in the grass and nature. In this scene, there is nothing and ever ything at the same time. I have almost a religious feeling when I see it. And nobody knows what it is about. Now, this to me is what a great film should be.”

Later, as I sit by the swimming pool on the Zentropa lawn in the bright sunshine and try to ignore a naked man who has just emerged from the water and is wondering around at one with his nakedness in that quin-

mutilation, or, indeed, a talking fox which growls the words,

tessentially Nordic way, it crosses

“Chaos reigns” and could easily describe von Trier’s mental

my mind that everything Lars von

state when making Antichrist or, if you wanted to be unkind,

Trier does when dealing with the

the finished film itself. The fox is a mangy, blood-stained

press might be part of one long

creature that keeps gnawing the open wound in its side.

continuous performance, part

Where on earth, I ask, did it come from?

self-protection, part provocation. But there is something honest



Tarkovsksy, I venture, would not have resorted to genital

and open about him, too. At one point when

It is not hard to see where Lars von Trier’s confusions

I ask him who, apart from Tarkovsky, are

- his anger, pain and undiminished desire to provoke -

his prime influences, he says, “Mum and

come from. He is one of the walking wounded, forever

Dad.” Then, giggling, he adds, “Thank God

trying to expose, and somehow exorcise, his fears, his

they are dead.”

deepest anxieties, through the mad, and often brilliant,

It’s shocking, funny and sad all at once—more

bad films he makes.

so when he talks about how he found out

As I am leaving, he says, “There is this one ver y funny

from his mother on her deathbed that the

line in a Meryl Streep film where one of her girlfriends

man who raised him was not his biological

says, ‘My mother is dead.’ And she replies, ‘Hey, that’s

father. “This,” he says, quietly, “is a bombshell

tough, but you will be so much happier later.’ I

that is still exploding.” I sit and brave out the

always feel a little bit like that.”

silence that ensues, like the good therapist I have fleetingly, surreally, become. “What was really unsat-

So, he does sometimes feel happy, then? “I

isfying, though, is that I could not talk to the guy who

would not go that far,” he says, giggling.

was not my real father but whom I had spent my whole childhood with because he was already dead and gone,” he continues, shaking his head. “And then, of course, I am in a big excited state to make contact with my biological family but, when I do that, it is like a foreign family. You do not really get close.” He says, sighing. “It is all ver y badly unfinished.”

“A film should be like a rock in the shoe.” —Lars von Trier 28




“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.” —Lars von Trier






Emily Watson as Bess McNeill Stellan SkarsgĂĽrd as Jan Nyman Katrin Cartlidge as Dodo McNeill Jean-Marc Barr as Terry Adrian Rawlins as Dr. Richardson Jonathan Hackett as Priest Sandra Voe as Mother Udo Kier as Sadistic Sailor Mikkel Gaup as Pits Roef Ragas as Pim

AWARDS 1996 European Film Award for Best Film European Film Award for Best Actress: Emily Watson National Society of Film Critics NSFC Award in 4 categories: for Best Film, Best Actress, Best Cinematography and for Best Director New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress: Emily Watson New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director

1997 Bodil Award for Best Film Bodil Award for Best Actress: Emily Watson Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix CĂŠsar Award for Best Foreign Film




Drama set in a repressed, deeply religious community in the north of Scotland, where a naive young woman named Bess McNeil meets and falls in love with Danish oil-rig worker Jan. Bess and Jan are deeply in love but, when Jan returns to his rig, Bess prays to God that he returns for good. Jan does return, his neck broken in an accident aboard the rig. Because of his condition, Jan and Bess are now unable to enjoy a sexual relationship and Jan urges Bess to take another lover and tell him the details. As Bess becomes more and more deviant in her sexual behavior, the more she comes to believe that her actions are guided by God and are helping Jan recover.


By Roger Ebert

November 29, 1996

is emotionally and spiritu-

Bess’ grandfather obser ves sourly, “We have no

ally challenging, hammering at conventional

bells in our church.” Jan is critically injured in an

morality with the belief that God not only sees

accident on the rig. He is paralyzed from the neck

all, but understands a great deal more than we

down, and the local doctor tells Bess he may never

give Him credit for. It tells the story of Bess, a

walk again. “You don’t know Jan!” she says fiercely.

simple woman of childlike naivete, who sacri-

One day Jan asks her to find a man and make love

fices herself to sexual brutality to save the life

to him, “for my sake. And then tell me about it.”

of the man she loves. Is she a sinner? The grim

Bess does not like this idea, but she does what Jan

bearded elders of her church think so. But Bess

asks. Dodo is enraged: “Are you sleeping with other

is the kind of person Jesus was thinking of, I

men to feed his sick fantasies? His head’s full of

believe, when he suffered the little children to

scars—he’s up to his eyeballs in drugs.” It is indeed

come unto him.

never made quite clear why Jan, a good man, has

breaking the waves

The movie takes place in the 1970s, in a remote

made this request of the woman he loves. That is not the point. The point is that Bess, with her

northern Scottish village. Bess (Emily Watson), a

fierce faith, believes that somehow her sacrifice

sweet-faced and trusting girl, is “not quite right in the

can redeem her husband and even cure him. As

head,” and her close-knit community is not pleased

his condition grows worse, her behavior grows

by her decision to marr y Jan (Stellan Skarsgard),

more desperate; she has herself taken out to

who works on one of the big oil rigs in the North Sea.

a big ship where even the port prostitutes

But she loves Jan so much that when the helicopter

refuse to go, because of the way they have

bringing him to the wedding is delayed, she hits him in

been treated there.

a fury. He is a tall, gentle man with a warm smile, and

The film contains many surprising revela-

lets her flail away before embracing her in his big arms. She is a virgin, but so eager to learn the secrets of marriage that she accosts her new husband in the powder room at the reception after the ceremony, telling him eagerly, “You can love me now!” And then, “What do I do?” The miracle of sexual expression transforms her, and she is grateful to God for having given her Jan and his love and his body.

tions, including a cosmic one at the end, which I will leave you to discover for yourself. It has the kind of raw power, the kind of unshielded regard for the force of good and evil in the world, that we want to shy away from. It is easier sometimes to wrap ourselves in sentiment and pious platitudes, and forget that God created nature “bloody in

We learn a little about Bess, who had a breakdown when

tooth and nail.” Bess does not have our ability

her brother died. Her closest friend is her sister-in-

to rationalize and evade, and fearlessly offers

law, Dodo (Katrin Cartlidge), a nurse who stays in the

herself to God as she understands him.

remote district mostly because of her. Bess belongs to a strict sect where women do not speak in church, and the sermon over the body at a funeral might be, “You are a sinner and will find your place in hell.”

This performance by Emily Watson reminds me of what Truffaut said about James Dean, that as an actor he was more like an animal than a man,



Lars von Trier finds the straight pure line through the heart of a story, and is not concerned with what cannot be known. proceeding according to instinct instead of thought

who do not: religious bean-counters like the

and calculation. It is not a grim performance and

bearded church elders. They understand nothing about their Christianity except for unyielding

is often touched by humor and delight, which

rules they have memorized, which means they

makes it all the more touching, as when Bess talks out loud in two-way conversations with

do not understand Christianity at all. They talk

God, speaking both voices—making God a stern

to God as if they expect him to listen, and learn. At the end of the film they get their response in a

adult and herself a trusting child. Her church banishes her, and little boys in the village throw

great savage ironic peal.

stones at her, but she tells Dodo, “God gives everyone something to be good at. I’ve always been stupid, but I’m good at this.” waves

Not many movies like this get made, because not

bre aking the

was written and directed by Lars von Trier,

from Denmark, who makes us wonder what kinds of operas Nietzsche might have written. He finds the straight pure line through the heart of a story, and is not concerned with what cannot be known: This movie does not explain Jan’s cruel request of his wife, because Bess does not question it. It shows people who care about her, such as the sister-in-law and the local doctor, and others


many filmmakers are so bold, angry and defiant. Like many truly spiritual films, it will offend the Pharisees. Here we have a stor y that forces us to take sides, to ask what really is right and wrong in a universe that seems harsh and indifferent. Is religious belief only a consolation for our inescapable destination in the grave? Or can faith give the power to triumph over death and evil? Bess knows.


THE IDIOTS 1998 CAST Bodil Jørgensen as Karen Jens Albinus as Stoffer Anne Louise Hassing as Susanne Troels Lyby as Henrik Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Jeppe Louise Mieritz as Josephine Henrik Prip as Ped Luis Mesonero as Miguel Knud Romer Jørgensen as Axel Trine Michelsen as Nana Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riis as Katrine

AWARDS 1998 London Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize

1999 Bodil Award in 3 categories: for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and for Best Supporting Actress Robert Award for Best Actress: Bodil Jørgensen

SYNOPSIS A group of perfectly intelligent young people decide to react to society’s cult of an aimless, non-creative and non-responsible form of intelligence by living together in a community of “idiots.” Their main activity becomes going out into the world of “normal” people and pretending to be mentally retarded. They take advantage of this situation to create anarchy everywhere they go and try by every possible means to make people annoyed, disturbed, miserable, ridiculous, angered, and shocked. The films start as they recruit a new lost soul and introduced her to their megalomaniac leader. 41



By Dennis Schwartz

T his is the second film made under the label of Dogma

Karen and tells her it is just a game they enjoy

95, a Scandinavian film group inspired by the Danish

playing, inviting her to join them, even though,

director Von Trier. It insists in their manifesto on

she does not appear to be one of them. But she

how to make films that its dogma be adhered to by

does look desperate and lonely and unhappy.

those who make films under their label. Improvised acting and hand-held camera work are some of the many dogmas the film must adhere to. the idiots ,

The film moved into the gist of the filmmaker’s message when Stoffer, the leader of the group, decided he would spin a bottle and whomever was chosen would have to spasse in front of family members or

which was written by Von Trier in four

days, has a bunch of middle-class cult groupies

those they previously worked with. Axel and Henrik

living together in a rich private house that one of

could not do it and thereby left the group. What was

their relatives gave them. The group members

becoming increasingly clear was that the game was

seem to be either in their late teens or in their

almost over for all of them, that they couldn’t really

20s, whose repulsive purpose is to freak out

confront the idiot inside themselves, that it was becoming apparent to them, that it was just a

in public and sometimes do it when together in

temporar y game they were playing; perhaps,

the privacy of their house. To spasse, is a Danish term, which refers to those who act like idiots even

because thet were in an experimental phase

though they are not. These episodes of spassing

of their young lives and this was their rebel-

give this film an odd look that is guaranteed to

lion before they settled down and acted like the

turn off a lot people and anger many, especially

adults they were expected to be.

those who expect more conventional ways of looking at and responding to the problems young people face in society.

The point that Von Trier was tr ying to make, is that you really have to be an idiot to change the system, or think that you can change it. That you

The theme of the movie is certainly obnoxious, it

can only be effective when you really confront who

is very difficult to feel much of anything for these

you are, reaching past the point of where authority

middle-class drop-outs, as we first encounter

rules who you are; or else, you are stuck with the

them in action in an elegant restaurant and watch

same cultural values you have always had and can’t

them spasse. They retardedly eat their food

really change who you have been brought up as.

under the direction of one of them (Susanne),

Being an idiot is the last act of despair. It is an act

who pretends to be their keeper; while one

of courage. And, it only matters when you can do it

of them, Stoffer, grabs onto a lady (Karen),

for real and not be using it to play a game. For Von

sitting alone, and refuses to let go of her.

Trier, being an idiot is an endearing way at looking

Karen seems to be responding kindly to the

at someone acting out who he is. It is a way to initiate

idiot, just like she didn’t react with any ill

real change in the system.

emotion after being treated rather brusquely by the waiter when she told him she doesn’t have much money and will be just ordering the salad. The group leaves together with

Karen’s story now unfolds; and, she turns out to be the one with the most dramatic story to tell. She volunteers to go back home to do her spassing, with Susanne as her witness. We meet her family, who act cold towards her, 43


This very unusual personal film mocks what is conventionally thought of as right, by doing what is unconscionable and politically incorrect, becomes only too real and too sad to comprehend. asking her where she has been for the last two

naive hopes and disillusionments; and possibly,

weeks, and wondering why she didn’t go to her

their emotional experiences that they can value.

baby’s funeral. We meet her husband, who shows

Their situation is not resolved. But they tried some-

her no love. We see her spasse on her cream

thing... and whether they reached their inner-self

cake after dinner, acting as her baby might have

or not, something penetrated them, whether they

acted when eating the cake, and she gets slapped

are the better for this experience, is difficult to

by her husband and leaves the house with Susanne,

tell, but something significant to them did take

who is filled with genuine tears. Von Trier has made his point. This very unusual personal film, that is very difficult to warm up to, that mocks what is conventionally thought of as right, by doing what is unconscionable and politically incorrect, becomes only too real and too sad to comprehend. It is presented so

place, just as we in the audience, whether we liked the film or not, something inside us was moved by what we saw taking place, causing us to react in a way we might not normally act when watching a film. In my way of thinking, that is great filmmaking.

as not to give the idiots a way out of how to deal with the alienation they feel. They seem to be left with only their



“If one devalues rationality, the world tends to fall apart.” ­— Lars von Trier





Björk as Selma Ježková Catherine Deneuve as Kathy (Cvalda) David Morse as Bill Houston Peter Stormare as Jeff Joel Grey as Oldrich Novy Cara Seymour as Linda Houston Vladica Kostic as Gene Jezek Jean-Marc Barr as Norman Vincent Paterson as Samuel Siobhan Fallon as Brenda

AWARDS 2000 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or Cannes Film Festival Best Actress: Björk European Film Award for Best Film European Film Award for Best Actress: Björk


Blue Ribbon Award for Best Foreign Language Film Bodil Award for Best Actress: Björk Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film

SYNOPSIS Selma has emigrated with her son from Central Europe to America. The year is 1964. Selma works day and night to save her son from the same disease she suffers from, a disease that inevitably will make her blind. But Selma has the energy to live because of her secret! She loves musicals. When life feels tough she can pretend that she is in the wonderful world of musicals...just for a short moment. All happiness life is not able to give her she finds there.




By Roger Ebert October 20, 2000

Some reasonable people will admire Lars

The movie begins with Selma rehearsing for a

von Trier’s

leading role in a local production of “The Sound

dancer in the dark ,

and others

will despise it. An excellent case can be made

of Music.” It is interrupted by several song-and-

for both positions.

dance numbers. Most of the film is shot in fairly drab digital video, but the musical numbers have

The film stars Bjork, the Icelandic pop star, as

brighter colors. They’re set in locales like the

Selma, a Czech who has emigrated to America, has

factory floor and a railroad bridge. Against their

a small son, works as a punch-press operator, is

jolly notes must be set the remarkably graphic

going blind and is saving her money for an opera-

death that closes the movie.

tion to prevent her son from going blind, too. To supplement her income she fastens straight pins to

The first press screening at Cannes was at

cards for a fraction of a penny per card. She keeps

8:30 a.m. That’s the screening where all the

her money in a candy box. Since it is impossible to

real movie people attend—the critics, festival

take the plot seriously on any literal level, it must be

heads, distributors, exhibitors, film teachers,

approached, I think, as a deliberate exercise in soap

other directors, etc. After the screening, the

opera. It is valid to dislike it, but not fair to criticize

auditorium filled with booing and cheering—so

it on the grounds of plausibility, because the movie

equal in measure that people started booing

has made a deliberate decision to be implausible:

or cheering at each other.

The plot is not a mistake but a choice.

I sat in my seat, ready to cheer or boo when I made up my mind. I let the movie marinate, and

Selma (Bjork) and her son live in a house trailer behind the home of Bill (David Morse), a cop who

saw it again, and was able to see what von Trier

is in thrall to his materialistic wife. He earns,

was trying to do. Having made a “vow of chastity”

she spends. She thinks he has a big inheritance,

with his famous Dogma 95 statement, which calls

and “it makes her proud,” he confides in Bjork,

for films to be made more simply with hand-held

to see him visiting his safety deposit box. In fact,

cameras and available light, he is now divesting

the box is empty. The cop likes or loves Selma

himself of modern fashions in plotting. dancer


or something (he is too gormless to be sure), but

the dark is a brave throwback to the fundamentals

betrays her trust. This leads to a deadly confron-

of the cinema—to heroines and villains, noble

tation between them, which is stretched out like

sacrifices and dastardly betrayals. The rela-

one of those silent scenes where a victim stag-

tively crude visual look underlines the movie’s

gers, speaks, staggers, speaks some more, falls

abandonment of slick modernism.

down, curses the fates, tries to climb up, laments, falls over again, etc. Either you see this for what it is, von Trier deliberately going for effect, or it seems silly. Maybe it seems silly, any way, but you can admire his ner ve.

dancer in the dark is not like any other movie at

the multiplex this week, or this year. It is not a “well made film,” is not in “good taste,” is not “plausible” or, for many people, “entertaining.” But it smashes down the walls of habit that

Selma is followed ever y where by Jeff (Peter Stor-

surround so many movies. It returns to the

mare, from the wood chipper scene in “Fargo”). He

wellsprings. It is a bold, reckless gesture.

wants to be her boyfriend. She’s not looking for a

And since Bjork has announced that she

boyfriend right now. It is important to note that both

will never make another movie, it is a

Selma and Jeff are simpleminded. Selma also has a

good thing she sings.

is going blind and wants to help her, but is defeated by her stubbornness.


good friend named Kathy, who figures out that Selma


DOGVILLE 2003 CAST John Hurt as Narrator Nicole Kidman as Grace Margaret Mulligan Lauren Bacall as Ma Ginger ChloĂŤ Sevigny as Liz Henson Paul Bettany as Tom Edison, Jr. Stellan SkarsgĂĽrd as Chuck Udo Kier as The Man in the Coat James Caan as The Big Man Shauna Shim as June Patricia Clarkson as Vera Jeremy Davies as Bill

AWARDS 2003 European Film Award for Best Director

2004 Bodil Award for Best Film Cinema Writers Circle Awards CEC Award for Best Foreign Film Robert Award for Best Screenplay: Lars von Trier




The beautiful fugitive, Grace, arrives in the isolated township of Dogville on the run from a team of gangsters. With some encouragement from Tom, the self-appointed town spokesman, the little community agrees to hide her and in return, Grace agrees to work for them. However, when a search sets in, the people of Dogville demand a better deal in exchange for the risk of harboring poor Grace and she learns the hard way that in this town, goodness is relative. But Grace has a secret and it is a dangerous one. Dogville may regret it ever began to bare its teeth.


By Roger Ebert

April 9, 2004

The underlying vision of the production has the

What von Trier is determined to show is that

audacity we expect from Von Trier, a daring and

Americans are not friendly, we are suspicious

inventive filmmaker. He sets his story in a Rocky

of outsiders, we cave in to authority, we are

Mountains town during the Great Depression, but

inherently violent, etc. All of these things are

doesn’t provide a real town (or a real mountain).

true, and all of these things are untrue. It’s a

The first shot looks straight down on the floor

big countr y, and it has a lot of different kinds of

of a large sound stage, where the houses of the

people. Without stepping too far out on a limb,

residents are marked out with chalk outlines,

however, I doubt that we have any villages where

and there are only a few props—some doors,

the helpless visitor would eventually be chained

desks, chairs, beds. We will never leave this

to a bed and raped by ever y man in town.

set, and never see beyond it; on all sides in the background there is only blankness.

The actors (or maybe it’s the characters) seem to be in a kind of trance much of the time. They talk in

The idea reminds us of “Our Town,” but von Trier’s

monotones, they seem to be reciting truisms rather

version could be titled “Our Hell.” In his town,

than speaking spontaneously, they seem to sense

which I fear works as a parable of America, the

the film’s inevitable end. To say that the film

citizens are xenophobic, vindictive, jealous, suspi-

ends in violence is not to give away the ending

cious and capable of rape and murder. His dislike of

so much as to wonder how else it could have

the United States (which he has never visited, since

ended. In the apocalyptic mind-set of von

he is afraid of airplanes) is so palpable that it flies

Trier, no less than general destruction could

beyond criticism into the realm of derangement. When

conclude his fable; life in Dogville clearly

the film premiered at Cannes 2003, he was accused of

cannot continue for a number of reasons,

not portraying Americans accurately, but how many

one of them perhaps that the Dogvillians

movies do?

would go mad.

The movie stars Nicole Kidman in a rather brave perfor-

Lars von Trier has made some of the best

mance: Like all the actors, she has to act within a narrow

films of recent years ( europa ,

range of tone, in an allegor y that has no reference to

waves , dancer in the dark ).

breaking the

He was a guiding

realism. She plays a young woman named Grace who

force behind the Dogme movement, which

arrives in Dogville being pursued by gangsters. She

has generated much heat and some light.

is greeted by Tom Edison (Paul Bettany), an earnest

He takes chances, and that’s rare in a world

young man, who persuades his neighbors to give her

where most films seem to have been banged

a two-week trial run before deciding whether to allow

together out of other films. But at some point

her to stay in town.

his fierce determination has to confront the

Grace meets the townspeople, played by such a large cast of stars that we suspect the original running time must have been even longer than 177 minutes. Tom’s dad is the town doctor (Philip Baker Hall); Stellan Skarsgard grows apples and, crucially, owns a truck; Patricia Clarkson is his wife; Ben Gazzara is the all-seeing blind man; Lauren Bacall runs the

reality that a film does not exist without an audience. dogville can be defended and even praised on pure ideological grounds, but most moviegoers, even those who are sophisticated and have open minds, are going to find it a very dr y and unsatisfactor y slog through conceits masquerading as ideas.


general store; Bill Raymond and Blair Brown are the are assorted other citizens and various children, and James Caan turns up at the end in a long black limousine. He’s the gangster.


parents of Jeremy Davies and Chloe Sevigny. There

ANTICHRIST 2009 CAST Willem Dafoe as He Charlotte Gainsbourg as She

AWARDS 2009 Cannes Film Festival Best Actress: Charlotte Gainsbourg

2010 Bodil Award for Best Film Bodil Award for Best Actress: Charlotte Gainsbourg Bodil Award for Best Actor: Willem Dafoe Robert Award for Best Film Robert Award for Best Director

SYNOPSIS A couple lose their young son when he falls out the window while they have sex in the other room. The mother’s grief consigns her to hospital, but her therapist husband brings her home intent on treating her depression himself. To confront her fears they go to stay at their remote cabin in the woods, “Eden,” where something untold happened the previous summer. Told in four chapters with a prologue and epilogue, the film details acts of lustful cruelty as the man and woman unfold the darker side of nature outside and within.




By Roger Ebert October 21, 2009

is not

The psychic pain of his counseling and their removal

supernatural, but an ordinary man, who loses

to the forest are now joined by pain inflicted upon

our common moral values. He lacks all good

them by nature and each other. The woods are inhab-

and embodies evil, but that reflects his nature

ited by strange animals that look ordinary—a deer,

and not his theological identity.

a fox, a crow—but are possessed and unnatural.

The central character in


He and She don’t much seek refuge in their cabin

This man, known only as He, is played by Willem

but increasingly find themselves outside in the

Dafoe as a somber, driven, tortured soul. The

wilderness. They begin to inflict pain on each other

film opens with He and his wife, She (Charlotte

in unspeakable and shockingly intimate ways.

Gainsbourg), making passionate love. This is a moment of complete good. In the next room,

More than anything else, I responded to the perfor-

their infant son begins to crawl around to explore

mances. Feature films may be fiction, but they

and falls to his death. This in itself is a neutral

are certainly documentaries showing actors in

act. It inspires the rest of the film, which labels

front of a camera. Both Dafoe and Gainsbourg

itself in three stages: Grief, Pain and Despair.

have been risk takers, as anyone working with von Trier must be. The ways they’re called upon

We must begin by assuming that He and She are

to act in this film are extraordinary. They respond

already at psychological tipping points. She has

without hesitation. More important, they convince.

been doing research on witchcraft, and it leads her

Who can say what von Trier intended? His own

to wonder if women are inherently evil. That may

explanations have been vague. The actors take

cause her to devalue herself. He is a controlling,

the words and actions at face value and invest

dominant personality, who I believe is moved by the

them with all the conviction they can. The result,

traumatic death to punish the woman who delivered

in a sense, is that He and She get away from

his child into the world.

von Trier’s theoretical control and act on their own, as they are compelled to.

Their first stage, Grief, is legitimate. Their error is in tr ying to treat it instead of accepting it and living it through. Of course they blame themselves for having sex when they should have been atten-

So it is a documentar y in one way. What does it document? The courage of the actors, for one thing.

tive to the infant. Guilt requires punishment. She

The realization of von Trier’s images, for another.

mentally punishes herself. For reasons he may not

And on the personal level, our fear that evil does

be aware of, he is driven to deal with her guilt as a problem, lecturing her in calm, patient, detached

exist in the world, that our fellow men are capable of limitless cruelty, and that it might lead,

psychobabble. Her grief is her fault, you see, and he

as it does in the film, to the obliteration of

will blame her for it.

human hope. The third stage is Despair.

This leads to pain, most directly when he insists, at this of all times, on their going to their remote cabin in a dark woods that she fears at the best of times. The cabin is named Eden; make of that what you will. They have already eaten of the fruit, and it will never be Eden for them again. 59



KODAK THEATRE Lars von Trier’s films can bring new inspiration to Hollywood and introduce audiences to a more honest genre of films. It is generally agreed that Hollywood leads the mainstream filmmaking market. However, most of its movies depend on special effects or technology, without a touching story and compelling characters. They lack the most important elements of a good film, which are the essence of the stor y, acting, roles and the portrayal of reality. In 1995 Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg announced Dogme 95 to bring the over-technical film industry back to honesty in filmmaking. Lars von Trier uses a simple, direct way of making films to counter the Holly wood approach. As ever yone knows, the Kodak Theatre is where the Academy Awards takes place every year. This is the biggest awards ceremony in the Holly wood film industr y, so, with intentional irony, the Lars von Trier film festival will be held in the same location as the Oscars, emphasizing von Trier’s and Dogme’s opposition to the Holly wood style. The festival will be held from March 1st to 4th, soon after the Oscars, screening films in contrast to typical Hollywood fare. Lars von Trier’s films can bring new inspiration to Hollywood and introduce audiences to a more honest genre of films.



SCHEDULE Day 1 / March 2 nd , Friday 15:00 PM Breaking the Waves Emily Watson as Bess McNeill Stellan Skarsgård as Jan Nyman Oilman Jan is paralyzed in an accident. His wife, who prayed for his return, feels guilty; even more, when Jan urges her to have sex with another.

19:00 PM The Idiots Bodil Jørgensen as Karen Jens Albinus as Stoffer The group of people gather at the house in Copenhagen suburb to break all the limitations and to bring out the “inner idiot” in themselves.

Day 2 / March 3 rd , Saturday 15:00 PM Dancer in the Dark Björk as Selma Ježková Catherine Deneuve as Kathy Nearly blind Selma, a Czech immigrant who dwells in a mental world of fantastical song and dance, performs a haunting act of deliverance when a neighbor steals the money she’d been saving for her young son’s visionsaving operation.

19:00 PM Dogville John Hurt as Narrator Nicole Kidman as Grace Margaret Mulligan A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away.

th Day 3 / March 4 , Sunday

13:00 PM Antichrist Willem Dafoe as He Charlotte Gainsbourg as She A grieving couple retreats to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse. 64

16:00 PM Dogme95 Workshop Having an experience to shoot a short film by yourselves with a hand-held


camera. You can make your own film.

19:00 PM Meeting with Lars von Trier



TRANSPORTATION DRIVING DIRECTIONS From the North Take 101 South. Exit Highland Avenue. The street winds down and become three lanes as you approach the Hollywood & Highland Center. The parking entrance is on Highland Avenue next to the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, north of Hollywood Blvd.

From the South Take 110 North (passing the Downtown area) to the 101 North. Exit Highland Avenue (Stay on right-hand side of the freeway as exit splits). The street winds down and becomes three lanes towards Hollywood Bowl. Turn left onto Highland Avenue, at the Hollywood & Highland Center. The parking entrance is on Highland Avenue next to the Renaissance Holly wood Hotel, north of Holly wood Blvd.

From the East Take 10 West to 101 Nor th. Exit Highland Avenue (Stay on right-hand side of the freeway as exit splits). The street winds down and becomes three lanes towards Holly wood Bowl. Turn left onto Highland Avenue, at the Holly wood & Highland Center. The parking entrance is on Highland Avenue next to the Renaissance Holly wood Hotel, north of Holly wood Blvd.

From the West Take 10 East to 110 North/Downtown (passing the Downtown area) to the 101 North. Exit Highland Avenue (Stay on right-hand side of the freeway as exit splits). The street winds down and becomes three lanes towards Hollywood Bowl. Turn left onto Highland Avenue, at the Holly wood & Highland Center. The parking entrance is on Highland Avenue next to the Renaissance Holly wood Hotel, north of Holly wood Blvd.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION The Metro RED LINE subway has a stop at the Hollywood & Highland Center. For Metro Bus information, call 1-800-COMMUTE or click here (


Parking for Kodak Theatre is at the Hollywood & Highland Center structure. Enter on Highland Avenue next to the Renaissance Holly wood Hotel, north of Holly wood Blvd. Rates are posted at each entrance. Please note that, although Kodak Theatre is unable to validate parking, the retail and dining establishments within the complex offer discount validation.




Discounted rate for Kodak Theatre patrons


Parking Parking entrance



N Hollywood Bowl


P 1840 Highland





Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

1717 Orange Dr.

Kodak Theatre

Holly wood & Highland Center




P 7083 Holly wood Blvd.


Renaissance Holly wood Hotel

1728 McCadden

HOLLY WOOD BLVD Holly wood Roosevlt Hotel

T V Guide Building ORANGE Dr.









Methodist Church


El Capitan Theatre



Hawthorn Lot

T V Guide Lot



Holly wood High School SUNSET BLVD




Liver and onions, lamb chops, goulash, shrimp at Hollywood’s oldest

6667 Holly wood Blvd, Holly wood 323-467-7788

restaurant. A film-industry hangout since it opened in 1919, Nusso & Frank still attracts the working studio set to its maroon faux-leather booths, along with tourists and locals nostalgic for Hollywood’s golden era. Great breakfasts are served all day, but the kitchen’s famous “flannel cakes” (pancakes) are served only until 3 PM.


Orson Welles ate 18 of these hot dogs in one sitting, and you, too, will

709 N. La Brea Ave, Beverly-La Brea 323-931-4223

be tempted to order more than one. The chilli dogs are the main draw and now the menu has expanded to include a Martha Stewart Dog (a 10-inch frank topped with mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, sauerkraut, bacon, and sour cream). Since 1939 Angelenos and tourists alike have been lining up to plunk down some modest change for one of the greatest guilty pleasures in L.A.


The more casual half of Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joseph Basti-

641 N. Highland Ave, Holly wood 323-297-0101

anich’s Mozza partnership gives newfound eminence to the humble “pizza joint.” With traditional Mediterranean items like white anchovies, lardo, squash blossoms, and Gorgonzola, Mozza’s pies—thin-crusted delights with golden, blistered edges—are much more Campania than California, and virtually every one is a winner. Utterly simple salads sing with vibrant flavours thanks to superb market-fresh ingredients, and daily specials include crisp duck legs with lentils and Saba (a balsamiclike vinegar), or fennel sausage with rapini. Like the menu, the wine list is both interesting and affordable.


Obsessed with quality and freshness, the meticulous chef maintains a network of specialty pur veyors, some of whom tip him off to their catch before it even hits the dock. This exquisite seafood then gets the Cimarusti treatment of French technique, traditional American themes, and Asian accents. For instance, you might find an indulgent risotto laced with Santa Barbara sea urchin and Maine lobster, wild salmon from Washington’s pristine Quinault River, or big eye tuna paired with Japanese sword squid, fennel, and oven-dried tomatoes.

5955 Melrose Ave, Holly wood 323-460-4170




1514 N. Gower St, Holly wood 323-466-7453

The name of this casual eater y may sound a little weird—but don’t be out off. Roscoe’s is the place for real down-home Southern cooking. Just ask the patrons, who drive from all over L.A. for Roscoe’s bargainprice fried chicken, wonderful waffles (which, by the way, turn out to be a great partner for fried chicken), buttery chicken livers, and grits. Although Roscoe’s has the intimate feel of a smoky jazz club, those musicians hanging out here are just taking five.



HOTELS FARMER’S DAUGHTER HOTEL 115 S. Fairfax Ave. Fairfax District, Los Angeles, CA 90036 323-937-3930 or 800-334-1658 w w

HIGHLAND GARDENS HOTEL 7047 Franklin Ave, Holly wood 323-850-0536 or 800-404-5472 w w

HOLLY WOOD ROOSEVELT HOTEL 7000 Holly wood Blvd, Holly wood 323-466-7000 or 800-950-7667 w w w.holly

RENAISSANCE HOLLYWOOD HOTEL 1755 N. Highland Ave, Holly wood 323-856-1200 or 800-769-4774 w w w.renaissanceholly

Tongue-in-check country style is the name of the game at this motel: rooms are upholstered in blue gingham with denim bedspreads, and farm tools serve as art. A curving blue wall secludes the interior courtyard and the hotel’s clapboard-lined restaurant, Tart. Pancakes here are a local favourite. Rooms are snug but outfitted with whimsical original art and amenities such as CD and DVD players. It’s a favourite of The Price Is Right Hopeful, the T V show tapes at the CBS studios nearby. Across from the cheap eats of the Farmers Market and The Grove’s shopping/entertainment mix. A large, sparkling pool and a lush, tropical garden set this hotel apart from other budget lodgings. Spacious but basic units have either two queen-size beds, or a king bed with a queen-size sleeper sofa, plus a desk and sitting area with Formica tables. A quick walk to Hollywood and Metro Rail; pet friendly; low price.

Think hip bachelor pad when considering the Roosevelt. Poolside cabana rooms have dark-wood furnishings and mirrored walls; rooms in the main building have contemporary platform beds. Although Hollywood’s oldest hotel, a renovation and a pair of hot nightspots have breathed new life into this historic spot. Lobby and poolside socializing is nonstop most weekends. Spanish Colonial Revival details include Spanish tiles, painted ceilings, arches, and fountains that evoke early Hollywood glamour. The David Hockney-painted pool adds to the playful vibe. A Metro stop is one block away. In the heart of Hollywood’s action; lively social scene; great burgers at hotel’s restaurant, 25 Degrees. Part of the massive Hollywood & Highland shopping and entertainment complex, this 20-story Renaissance is at the center of Hollywood’s action. Contemporary art (notably by L.A. favorites Charles and Ray Eames), retro ‘60s furniture, terrazzo floors, a Zen rock garden, and wood and aluminum accents greet you in the lobby. Rooms are vibrant: chairs are red, table lamps are molded blue plastic. For the ultimate party pad, book the Panorama Suite, with angled floor-to-ceiling windows, vintage Eames furniture, a grand piano, and a sunken Jacuzzi tub with a view. Spa Luce, the hotel’s roof-top spa, was added in 2008. Large rooms; blackout shades; Red Line Metro-station adjacent. 71


Lars von Trier Film Festival Catalog  
Lars von Trier Film Festival Catalog  

This catalog includes all information about this film festival of the talented director—Lars von Trier. From his biography, reviews of five...