Lars von Trier

From Academic Kids

Lars von Trier (born April 30, 1956 in Copenhagen, Denmark) is a Danish film director closely associated with the Dogme95 collective calling for a return to plausible stories in filmmaking and a move away from artifice and towards technical minimalism.



Von Trier graduated from the Danish Film School in 1983 and the films he made as a student, Nocture (Nocture, 1981) and Image of Liberation (Befrielsesbilleder, 1982) both won Best Film awards at the Munich Film Festival 1984, an award which he again won in 1991 for Europa (US title, Zentropa), which also won the Prix du Jury at Cannes Film Festival and picked up awards at other major festivals. His 1987 film Epidemic was also shown as part of the official programme at Cannes.

For television von Trier directed Medea (1988) which won the Jean d'Arcy prize in France, and The Kingdom (Riget, 1994) and The Kingdom II (Riget II, 1997), a pair of miniseries about a haunted hospital. A projected third installment in the series has been derailed due to the death of Ernst-Hugo Jregrd, who played Helmer, one of the major characters. A thirteen-episode American television series, based on The Kingdom, was written by Stephen King, under the title Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital, which was broadcast in 2004.

Breaking the Waves (1996) won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The film featured Emily Watson, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Lars von Trier overcame his dislike of traveling to present the second Dogme film, The Idiots (Idioterne, 1998), in person at the Cannes film festival. As instructor and originator of the Dogme95 concept, which led to international interest in Danish film as a whole, he has inspired filmmakers all over the world.

In 2000, von Trier premiered a musical featuring the renowned Icelandic musician Bjrk, Dancer in the Dark. The film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

He has completed (2005) Manderlay, the second film in his USA trilogy. The first film in that trilogy, Dogville, starred Nicole Kidman, and met with mixed critical reaction. Some viewers considered the film bold and powerful, while others found it pretentious and affected.

His next project is going to be a danish dogme film Direktren for det hele, which is going to be a comedy. This movie is scheduled to be released in 2007. The last part of the USA-trilogy titled Washington is now planned to be produced after that film.


  • Von Trier added the "von" to his name when his peers at film school nicknamed him "von Trier". He also reportedly added the "von" in homage to Erich von Stroheim.
  • He has described himself in Interview magazine (June 1989) as "a melancholy Dane masturbating in the dark to images on the silver screen."
  • In a 2003 interview with The Age[1] (, von Trier claimed not to watch films anymore, saying his hard-drive was full. Instead, he prefers video games. He also enthusiastically endorsed prozac and pornography.


Von Trier suffers from multiple phobias, which includes his fear of flying. As von Trier said himself "basically, I'm afraid of everything in life, except filmmaking". This puts a lot of strain of his ability to produce movies. Even though most of his work takes place in another country, it’s mostly being filmed in either Denmark or Sweden. So even though he has produced movies about USA, he has never been to the country. Whenever his movie is in the competition at the Cannes Film Festival, he will drive from Denmark to France and back.

Filming Techniques

Lars von Trier as said that “a film should be like a rock in the shoe”. In order to create original art he feels that filmmakers must impose restrictions distinct from conventional film techniques. These restrictions are quite clear in von Trier's movies. The most famous is the cinematic "vow of chastity" of the Dogme movement with which he is associated (though only one of his films, Idioterne, is an actual Dogme film). In Dogville (2003) everything was filmed on a sound stage with no set where the walls of the buildings in the fictional town were marked as a line on the floor.

There usually are two uses of these restrictions in von Trier’s world:

  • The first use is the most common in his films. He wishes to give the actors the artistic freedom that they can’t have on a typical Hollywood film. Von Trier shoots his scenes for longer periods than most directors to encourage actors to stay in character. In Dogville (2003) he let actors stay in character for hours, method-style. The rules and restrictions are a break from the traditional Hollywood production, though directors such as Robert Altman have long been using such techniques of working with actors.
  • The second use is to underline a certain mood to the story. This can be seen in this film Dancer in the Dark (2000) that shifts between two types of style, where each style relates to Selma’s point of view. When we follow Selma in her everyday life the is shot on digital video, an odd choice for a period piece. Selma's dream sequences/musical numbers, however, are on actual film.


Most of von Trier’s films and television projects are parts of thematic and stylistic trilogies. The exceptions to this rule are his early work from before he graduated the Danish Film School, some TV projects and of course The Kingdom (Riget), which was planned as a trilogy of three seasons with 13 episodes in total. Sadly the latter was unfinished due to death of the actor of one of the main characters.

The Europa trilogy illuminated the traumas of Europe in the future. This trilogy includes The Element of Crime (1984), Epidemic (1988) and Europa (Zentropa, 1991).

The Golden Heart trilogy was about naive heroines who maintain their 'golden hearts' despite the tragedies they experience. This trilogy includes Breaking the Waves (1996), Idioterne (The Idiots, 1998) and Dancer in the Dark (2000). It's worth noting that while some people consider this von Trier’s Dogme trilogy, only Idioterne (The Idiots) is a real Dogme film. While the two other films have a similar Dogme 'look' thanks to frequent handheld camerawork, they can best be described as pre and post Dogme.

The USA - The Land of Opportunities trilogy follows the character of Grace, and is set in a stylized American past. Von Trier reportedly decided to set the trilogy in America as a response to Americans at the Cannes film festival who said he had no right to make the film Dancer in the Dark (2000) about a country he has never been to. All three movies will be shot in the same distinctive style, on a bare sound stage with no set and buildings marked by lines on the floor. This style is inspired by 1970s televised theatre. The trilogy consists of Dogville (2003), Manderlay (2005) and Washington (2008).


External links

de:Lars von Trier et:Lars von Trier es:Lars von Trier fr:Lars von Trier it:Lars von Trier nl:Lars von Trier ja:ラース・フォン・トリアー no:Lars von Trier pl:Lars von Trier pt:Lars von Trier sk:Lars von Trier fi:Lars von Trier sv:Lars von Trier ru:Триер, Ларс фон


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