Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier is a Danish filmmaker who is probably best known for his controversial movies. However, the controversy is not political. Born on 30 April 1956, von Trier is better known for explicit scenes and pushing the boundaries of sexual content. He was quoted saying that he fears everything in life except filmmaking, which he has been doing since the age of 11. He was raised as a committed nudist without any rules and it speaks to his vision regarding his movies.

After graduating from the National Film School of Denmark, where he also made Nocturne and The Last Detail with critical acclaim, he directed The Element of Crime in 1984. It is based on a detective who uses hypnosis to help track down a sadistic serial killer. In 1987, he took on the challenge of writing and directing a dark science fiction tale called Epidemic which explores a future plague outbreak. These two films formed part of his Europe-trilogy and in 1991 he finished it with Europa.

In order to gain more creative and financial freedom von Trier founded the movie production company called Zentropa Entertainment alongside producer Peter Jensen. This new found independence led Trier to produce movies such as Constance and Pink Prison, which screened in 1998 and 1999. These served as hardcore sex films for women and were both following the guidelines of the Puzzy Power manifesto that was also developed by Zentropa.

After being involved as producer Lars von Trier continued as director and got much acknowledged for works like Breaking the Waves (1996), The Idiots (Idioterne, 1998) and Dancer in the Dark (2000). Perhaps this should be consider as Triers golden era.

lars von trier

Lars von Trier at Cannes in 2000 (photo by Rita Molnár).

In 2003, he aimed at American issues with the U.S. trilogy which included Dogville and Manderlay. Using acclaimed international actors like Nicole Kidman and Bryce Dallas Howard, von Trier focused heavily on the American society when it comes to tolerance and slavery. His constant experimentation with technical approaches can clearly be seen in the above mentioned films and the 2006 Danish comedy The Boss of it All (Direktøren for det hele). For those who are unaware, von Trier usually handles the camera and he keeps the actors in character at all times.

2009 saw the release of Anti-Christ, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. It surrounds a married couple who struggle with the loss of their child. With some explicit scenes, both violent and sexual, the movie gained mixed reviews from critics. This was followed by Melancholia in 2011. Once again von Trier made use of Gainsbourg alongside Kristen Dunst as two sisters who live out their last days while a rogue planet makes its way to earth.

His latest release is Nymphomaniac. The movie is separated into two parts namely "Volume I" and "Volume II" due to the length. Yet again Gainsbourg is utilized and portrays the life of women who struggles with her sexual desires from an early age. She finally reaches a point where her body simply can't keep up with her desire.

It is safe to say that von Trier has no interest in releasing blockbuster movies and generating revenue. His films are always based on some sort of artistic vision and more importantly controversy. He aims to get a reaction from the viewers, regardless of good or bad. Quite a few of his films are based on projecting himself, if not based on personal experience, and this makes them so refreshing to see.