Lars von Trier
A talented, provocative and creative movie-maker, favored by critics and fans but with tendencies of slightly juvenile rebelliousness, gimmickry, self-promotion,
and over-confidence. His talents have enabled him to re-invent cinema and its techniques many times, trying his hand with extremely varied cinematic or
theatrical approaches, genres and styles to shape his sometimes undisciplined but provocative and uncompromised visions. His body of work, therefore, has gone
through many extremely different stages and style. His movies are often fiercely artsy attempts to explore his ideas, provoke and push the envelope in any
way possible without compromise, but they are also marked with immaturity, often getting lost in a childish desire to provoke and shock his audience, as if he
were still a teenager but a precocious, talented and intellectual one. Has a tendency to exaggerate greatly for melodramatic and cruel effect, and also tends to drown
his writing in despair, excessive cruelty and fatalism, featuring humanity at its worst, as if the whole world were populated only by psychoses, cruelty, depravity
and depression. This is all exemplified by the tediously contrived 'Breaking the Waves' and 'Dancer in the Dark', and his navel-gazing, depressing but very
superficial and immature treatments of the USA in Dogville and Manderlay with the stunt of Brechtian minimalist stages as sets. Has been accused of misogyny
often due to his repetitive abuse of female characters, but these accusations, as always, are brainless knee-jerk reactions, and I could use the same movies
to accuse him of the exact opposite. In one of his earlier stages, he was one of the founders of the cinematic Dogme '95 manifesto which directors sign as a
vow to never use artificial lighting and props, and to use hand-held cameras to capture the action instead of controlling the action to suit the cameras.
This allowed for a much more realistic feel but was also conceptually ridiculous as the camera in itself distorts reality and needs corrective lighting.
Since then, as mentioned, he has moved on to different cinematic approaches several times.
A TV series that is often described as a mix of ER and Twin Peaks filmed in Dogme '95 style. But while the ER-style gripping hospital
drama and the Twin Peaks-like quirky characters and strange, spooky events keep the viewer fascinated, it is the humor and dense
sub-plotting that are the clinchers. Highlights are the constant hilarious clashes between a formal Swede and some Danish frivolity,
the spiritual sleuthing of an old woman who tries to help the ghosts of the hospital while the administration tries to stand firmly
with its belief in science, students play with body parts, doctors initiate each other with a surgical blade, a doctor that collects
blackmail and discarded material in the cellar, and a pair of dishwashers with Down's syndrome that serve as the Greek chorus. The
hilarious and disturbing climax features a hospital in chaos and a grotesque birth scene.
These next four episodes in the TV series move onwards to events and characters that become more and more bizarre to the point of parody.
Comedy and surrealism take the forefront here instead of spookiness and gripping drama, with sub-plots involving a twelve-foot deformed
baby with the mind of a grown man, Satanic rituals and demons, zombies, doctors with an addiction to splatter films, a madman in charge
of group therapy, an ambulance driver that drives against the traffic while the staff bet on him, etc etc. A wild and fascinating ride
but unfortunately unfinished due to the deaths of some main actors.
Kingdom 2, The
Notorious provocation from Trier, already known for his provocations, outdoing everything he did until now, and somehow wrapping it all in a gripping,
intense and interesting movie for a change, whether you like it or not. All of the events and nasty, gruesome, very graphic scenes of sexual mutilation
and sadism can be understood at a few levels: On the lowest level, this is just another dark and despairing movie by Trier dealing with humans doing
horrible things to each other, laced with supernatural horror. 'He' and 'She' are a loving & lusty couple that are in the middle of some rapturous
love-making when their child falls to his death from a window, leading to extreme grief, twisted behaviour, sexual hangups, and dark emotions, all
climaxing in sadism in the woods, spurred on by an evil force. At a much more interesting level, this is an artsy but misanthropic film about the war
of the genders. He is a dominating psychiatrist that tries to treat his grieving wife with pushy and sometimes misguided good intentions. She is
emotionally distraught and is not being helped by his cold analyses and games, and the inherent clash leads to violent and nasty chaos. And then there
are the religious and metaphysical layers, alluded to by the title and the symbolism in the movie. Nature is cruel, chaotic, illogical, emotional and
wild. When they go into the woods to 'Eden', He sees disturbingly violent images of nature, and She, despite her studies in gynocide and violence against women,
claims that nature has control over women's bodies, which may naturally lead them to witchcraft as well as irrational violent acts, all of which she
fears in herself (even child abuse is hinted). Thus, He tries to tame her, She finally lashes out when her nature is repressed, sex is used as a weapon,
a grindstone is gorily attached to his leg after she dominates him with sex, etc. Trier sets himself up for accusations of misogyny by equating woman
with cruel, irrational nature and chaotic evil, but she is, after all, a symbolic representation. The final message seems to be that the world (nature)
was created by this evil/cruel/irrational Antichrist and that man can only survive and get out of this hell through violent domination, not rational
thought, and only then can he make use of nature and fruitfully produce the human race. Now, the only question is, did the movie really need pornography,
clit-mutilation, and ejaculation of blood?
Vastly praised and very overrated melodrama about a very religious, mentally immature woman who falls in love with an oil rig worker, turns obsessive,
and falls apart when he becomes paralyzed and asks her to have sex with other men and tell him all about it in order to keep him alive. The film tries
to paint her as an irrational 'saint' who sacrifices her soul, body, life, feelings, church, community, and more in order to keep him alive. However,
their love is depicted as nothing but lust and sex, the movie superficially portrays religious people either as cold and cruel caricatures or as
irrational, emotional idiots, the characters and situations are often contrived in order to setup the Greek tragedy of an ending, and the movie is
horribly edited. Despite all this melodramatic nonsense, it has some great moments and will disturb you enough to make you think, though not always
in the intended way. Mostly insufferable.
Breaking the Waves
It is ironic that the director who signed the Dogme '95 manifesto debuted with this movie which is as far from reality as is possible.
Take a film-noir story about a detective who empathizes and lives the life of a criminal to find the 'element', abstract and deconstruct the film-noir elements
a la Godard, turn it into an existential study on identity, film it in a strangely decaying and dark world that is beyond Blade Runner or Brazil,
add surreal props and camera angles, film it in alarming color tones and lighting effects, and you have this dark and moody experience that is basically
all art and cinematic virtuosity, but no heart.
Element of Crime, The
This is actually two movies in one, and can be experienced fully as either one. On the more superficial level, this is a movie about a serial-killer, told in a similar
style to Trier's previous Nymphomaniac: A portrait of a messed-up human-being told in chapters as their lives progresses and their tastes become increasingly more
perverse. Nymphomaniac was basically an art-house porno that intellectualized and psycho-analyzed a slut and told of her exploits in art-house style. This movie does the same
for a serial-killer. It starts with extremely clumsy kills, leading to disturbing and darkly amusing scenes when the killer tries to be sophisticated and things go wrong.
As with Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, murdering here is quite an awkward and difficult business and and evil has never been so banal and unglamorous. But then
he tries to make art out of his killing and sadism, and philosophizes about it while talking to some kind of guide. The kills and sadistic experiments with humans
both living and dead become increasingly more sadistic, cruel and disturbing, leading to a final experiment of cruelty that seems to be done out of sheer boredom. All
the while he is trying to design and build his own house several times. This leads to a surreal epilogue leading down to Hell itself. The second interpretation
of this movie is one of an auto-biography and self-parody of Trier himself. It is typical that Trier would choose to portray himself via a serial killer story.
Of course this changes everything, but it holds water with many symbolic interpretations, including the various attempts at cruel murder as art, violence against women,
the rebuilding of his house from scratch several times, etc. Trier strikes again. The question is, does anything linger after the strike?
House That Jack Built, The
A satirical and raw look at a group of people that yearn to find their 'inner idiot' as a psychological release by acting like animals and idiots even in public.
They train themselves to 'spass out' in front of other people in order to break free of social norms and rules of behaviour, and thus connect with their inner
selves. This misguided philosophy, of course, will only lead to releasing the inner animal, and thus involves lots of orgies, bestial and annoying behaviour
while the commune attempt to find themselves by acting like retards. The climax features an intensely dramatic confrontation of one of the emotionally challenged
idiots with her close family until she finally gets a well-deserved slap in the face. That was the only good thing about this movie.