"I'm afraid of everything in life, except filmmaking"
Name: Lars von Trier
Date of Birth: 30/04/1956
Place of Birth: Copenhagen, Denmark
Marital Status: Married to Bente Frøge
Forbrydelsens element (The Element of Crime) (1984)
Medea (1987) (TV)
Europa (Zentropa) (1991)
Riget (The Kingdom) (1994) (TV)
Breaking the Waves (1996)
Riget II (The Kingdom II) (1997) (TV)
Idioterne (The Idiots) (1998)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Lars von Trier's life as a filmmaker began with short films made using a super 8 camera bought by his mother. He began studying at the National Film School of Denmark in 1974 and graduated with a short film, Befrielsesbilleder (Image of Relief / Images of Liberation) which went on to win the Best Film award at the Munich Film Festival.
In 1984, after working in TV for a few years, Lars released his first full-length feature, Forbrydelsens element, which certainly marked him out as a distinctive talent with its blend of film noir expressionism captured in yellow-tinted monochrome. It is essentially a crime / psychological thriller, but with a visual style all of its own. The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or and won the Grand Technical Prize at the Cannes film festival.
Lars then went back to TV and directed Medea, a retelling of the original Euripides play, in 1987. A year later, Epidemic was released. While well received at Cannes, the film is generally considered the weakest of the trilogy of films concerning Europe (The Element of Crime / Epidemic / Zentropa). It is filmed in a docu-drama style and, in this way, can be seen as a precursor to The Kingdom.
Europa was the film that really put von Trier 'on the map'. An American takes a railway job in post WW2 Germany, hoping to remain neutral to the continuing purges by the Allied forces. He finds himself being used by both the Americans and the family that owns the railroad and after falling in love with the owners daughter finds he must make some difficult decisions. The film beautifully uses both black & white and colour imagery and was again nominated for the Palme d'Or while also winning the Jury Prize, the Best Artistic Contribution award and the Grand Technical Prize at Cannes.
Next came the astonishing Riget, a Danish TV mini series about a hospital called The Kingdom plagued by ghostly apparitions and general strange goings on. Can almost be described as a Danish combination of ER and Twin Peaks, but this really doesn't do it justice. Filmed mostly in grainy colour and using very jagged, bizarre, camera movement, the style is very reminiscent of the whole Dogme 95 thing. Which brings me very nicely onto the next 'thing' Lars went on to do...
In the spring of 1995, the Dogme 95 manifesto was signed in Copenhagen by a Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. Increasingly disallusioned with the majority of films being made and the heavy reliance on special effects in Hollywood, the two Danish directors came up with a vow of chastity that was to be used to make films. Only handheld cameras could be used, no props, no artificial sound etc. The first Dogme 95 film wasn't released until 1998 (this was Festen (The Celebration)), but the rules were laid down now.
Lars' next film, Breaking the Waves was his first piece of work in English. The story of a wife whose husband urges her to take another lover after he is paralzyed, the performances (especially from Emily Watson, who was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar) are absolutely wonderful and the film deservedly won rave reviews. Von Trier again won the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes and was nominated for the Palme d'Or for the third time.
Von Trier gave us more of the the same in Riget II in 1997 before releasing the second Dogme 95 film, Idioterne, in 1998. The film dealt with extremely controversial subject matter - a group of perfectly normal intelligent people pretending to be mentally retarded in reaction to the type of intelligence rewarded in society. In the UK at least, the movie was also infamous for including images of penetration and looked unlikely to be certificated at one point. In the US, to receive an NC-17 rating, all shots of male genitalia and penetration were covered with black bars by the distributor. The film saw von Trier receive yet another Palme d'Or nomination.
In 2000, Dancer in the Dark was released to fairly black and white reviews. It seemed you either loved it or hated it. The main character, Selma, was given an absolutely spellbinding performance by Björk (for which she won Best Actress at Cannes but was denied even a nomination at the Oscars). A bizarre tale of an almost completely blind woman who bursts into song every now and again, it is the most emotionally challenging film I have seen. The ending in particular is very bleak and left me crying (aah... bless). The film won the Palme d'Or (surely Lars was growing tired of that particular award?).
Next was Dogville, starring Nicole Kidman and set in America in the 1930s. I must admit to not having seen it yet, but from what I can gather it's basically a play acted out as a film. With no sets (buildings are marked on the ground with chalk), it all sounds slightly Dogma-esque, but doesn't actually follow those guidelines.
Lars is also working on Dimension, a lengthy film which he's currently completing 3 minutes of a year. Strange.
the splendid imdb.com