The first time I met Lars Von Trier he smelled odd. Wearing an earth-colored ensemble of Fjällräven trekking gear and a leather jacket, overdressed for hot creative studio work, sweating. Maybe the smell came from the funk emitted from his baby boy’s diapers that had chilled out on his arm. Lars grinned like a naughty prankster: “Morten, I got some samples for you” flexing hi-end field recordings of surgical saws, EKG beeps and chimes reverberating through
elevator shafts. I tamed the sounds to a musical soundtrack with my sampling keyboard and Lars lit up, directing: slower, less bass…sorry…I don’t know shit about music apart from that track Popcorn, Mahler and Dolly Parton. He was the king of care free work, always hunting for Chocolate milk for his son during work, but still deeply in love with the film media itself, making “The Kingdom”.
The most internationally known Dane is probably Lars Von Trier, not his Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, footballer Michael Laudrup, atomic genius Niels Bohr, Aqua, H.C. Andersen, HelenaChristensen, designer Vibskov, art brand Olafur Eliason or the Hollywood hunk exports. Namedrop Lars, and you are instantly clever and edgy in that fine Scandinavian tradition.
Trier´s debut, “The element of crime”, took Cannes by storm back in back in 1984 with its Dreyer and Tarkovsky-inspired wet and dark dystopian sci-fi thriller inspired by Coppola´s remake of Conrad´s “Heart of darkness”, “Apocalypse Now”. After a couple of increasingly pretentious and complicated films revolving around post punk fascinations with Germany and viruses forming his “Europa” triology, he reversed his tactics using his own fears, producing the “Kingdom”, a hugely successful humoristic and easygoing series filled with retards, freemasons, zombies, incompetent doctors and Swedish fascists. It was his mainstream breakthrough.
Since then, he has crafted a series of unpredictable, controversial films, always twisting
expectations and minds, inventing his own hybrid genres, first venturing into early small
prosumer cameras in “The Idiots”, shoot in a intimate almost documentary setting following his Dogma 95 manifest, followed by the dizziness-inducing handheld/shaking tearjerker “Dancing in the dark”, a mix of MTV, low-fi musical, and 30s propaganda featuring a coked-up blind Björk playing the weak victimized women for maximum emotional impact. He then perfected the same theme in a closed staged setting in “Dogville” and “Manderlay”, driving Nicole Kidman nuts in theatre like maces of chalk.
A turnaround point was the failed and almost unwatchable comedy “The boss of it all”, where he abandoned all his atheistic tricks and used a randomizing algorithm to control the camera. Then he mocked his old idol Jørgen Leth, a holy cow for pretentious Danish film buffs, in The Five Obstructions, a must for any upcoming filmmaker. Almost bankrupt, he realized his main market was art house southern (post chaotic) Europe, so he made the traumatizing “Antichrist”, a mediation on sexuality, returning to his former visual grandeur, including a more active, evil female protagonist – and with the legendary female castration scene…ouch. “Magnolia” was a less dark bigger production, but more visually striking. Unfortunately, his eccentric provocative side took over at the press meeting at the opening in Cannes, where he was cut out of context and casted as a Nazi…ironic winks to the aesthetic, not political side of German history did fare well in a city owned by the Rothschild family, so a stupid, out of context sound bite went viral…and since then, no more interviews for Tourette-Lars.
Fast forward to Christmas 2013, where the film company Zentropa releases Nymphomaniac (forget about love), a meditation on sexuality. I have seen some samples and guarantee more controversy and another art house smash, as always annoying but with intelligent twists for emotional turmoil: this guy is in a league of his own: follow the pre-hype here:
To be continued….