There is a lot about Lars Von Trier as a person that I really don’t like. For a while I thought I was just afraid of him, with such intense, frightening films and all these rumors about how he treats his actresses. But, reading more about him, I realized I just think he’s a little Danish brat.
Which hurts me to say, because being half-Danish (and never having been there…much the same way “von” Trier hasn’t been to the US?) I have an unexplainable greater affinity for famous Danes than for famous Americans. Maybe because there are fewer of them. But, Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen are on our side.
But, unlike Hans and Soren I think Lars and I have very little in common morally. Before I keep going on my little bash of his person, let me say that I have not seen enough of his movies to make any of what I feel/think legitimate. I think my gut reaction to him must stem from his self-contragalatory superiority complex that emerges in interviews where he claims that all big-budget Hollywood movies are bad (the bigger they are, the worse they are) and that America/globalization has destroyed his life, so he is legitimate in making films about America as a morally corrupt (devoid?) society. He’s annoying.
Those are my gut reactions (and his annoying face doesn’t help), but I’ve been trying to look past that as I watch his films. Visually they are extremely interesting, but no one needs me to say that. They’re visually obvious and unique and that’s really cool. I like the idea of Dogme95 (though I will never see Kids or Julien Donkey boy) and I like even more the design stuff he’s doing with Dogville and Manderlay (Our Town was a cool play, too). Roger Ebert (like the asshole he is) thought that Dogville really only stood out because it had these amazing performers in it and that audiences would have been bored to death because of the sparse design. Maybe, but I don’t think so. Dogville and Manderlay immediately suck you in with the format and even unknowns wouldn’t have hindered that (in my opinion, of course).
A while ago I decided that my boycott of Roman Polanski must end. Without knowing anything about his background I had decided that his cowardly flee to France after statutory rape charges was inexcusable. Finding more about his experiences in WWII and the horrible murder of his family, I started paying more attention to his films and realizing that I was in no position to judge an artist as a person. Polanski is incredible, and I’m embarrassed that I had to play catch up because I was so convinced that I was morally superior.
But what about method? As far as I know, Polanski isn’t the kind of sadistic director that “von” Trier is. If you are going to divorce the film from the filmmaker’s character, that is probably a legitimate approach, but can you divorce the method of the filmmaking? He’s mean. This much is clear. As far as his treatment of his female stars, all I’ve heard is rumors and not first hand accounts. It has been suggested that his female characters are stand-ins for himself, and so how he directs can be described as self-hatred? His films are parabels, I understand that, but he constantly subjects these women to horrible, degrading tortures. Aren’t the morals behind his films just mostly malevolent?
Like, Dogville. What I get from Dogville is that people are basically evil. No matter what their intentions are, it is impossible for people to be selfless without the strong presence of the law. Let anyone have any freedom, and they are going to revert to pure evil. Okay, so it seems fascist, right? Not only that, but the movie seems to be suggesting that we shouldn’t even try, because trying only means we have this superior liberal guilt and it’s only going to exaccerbate the problem. I’m depressed already. Maybe it would be better if we were just all dead. Or, at least, if Americans were all dead. Because people can claim all they want that he meant it as a reproach to humanity, but “Young Americans” is playing at the end.
He hates all of these characters. Even Grace is not left off the hook as she commits the most atrocious acts of murder – more horrifying because of the stylizations – and her learned helplessness transforms into malevolency just as harsh as “von” Trier’s. Because doing away with one city is not enough. If this is a parabel, this is indicative of more than just this one expample, and they’re all going to have to burn. Their Grace is their savage deaths and that’s all we can look forward to.
I didn’t hate Dogville and I was really glad I saw it, but it obviously really upset me. Maybe it’s because I can’t accept it as one man’s opinion. Parts of this film feel really true to me, and that’s scary and something I think I should resist. It was like reading The Trial in the middle of my religious conflict (not over)…not helpful. I don’t know…I didn’t exactly mean for this blog to be this scathing personal attack on some dude I know nothing about, but I’m also really pissed off at this guy. I think part of it is that I’m pissed that he can talk about his characters being arrogant for feeling morally superior, but then make such an arrogant film that boldly proclaims this philosophy as true without a bit of a searching quality.