Lars von Trier hates you

Breaking the Waves is one of those films that I don't inflict on many people, despite the fact that I happen to love it. Poor Emily Watson, in a wonderful performance, is put through such a painful and humiliating set of ordeals that, despite its redemptive ending (and you've got to wait for the very end to experience the redemption), it's incredibly difficult to watch.

I had no such love for Dancer in the Dark, von Trier's next cinematic offering. Bjork's tribulations are piled on to such an improbable degree that it strains credulity past the breaking point, and veers into the cartoonish. In addition, though we are clearly meant to view her as an innocent victim, her abject refusal to defend herself eventually makes her complicit in her own demise (and the pointless orphaning of her child). I also began to wonder if maybe von Trier liked being mean to women a wee bit too much.

With Dogville, it became apparent that Breaking the Waves was a one-off, and that I was destined to detest its director with ever-growing passion. In a kind of backhanded tribute to a film directed by a man who hates America without ever having bothered to visit, I decided to hate the film without bothering to see it. I don't think I missed much, since seeing Nicole Kidman put through the von Trier treatment didn't hold much appeal to me.

Today I learned (thanks to Chris Orr at The Plank) that von Trier is at it again, with a piece of cinematic excreta called Antichrist. It is, apparently, causing quite a stir at Cannes. For those of you curious to know why, you can search around in the embedded links above until you find out. For my part, my mother reads this blog, and I have no desire to inadvertantly put her off her dinner for the next week. (You're welcome.) The only thing I will add is that it sounds like The Joy of Sex, adapted for the big screen by Hannibal Lecter.

Taking it in his stride, von Trier had this to say about the reaction to his little film:
Booed at his own press conference and asked why he chose to make this film, von Trier waxed philosophical: “I never have a choice. It’s the hand of God. And I am the best film director in the world. I’m not sure if God is the best God in the world.”
I couldn't help but recall the thoughts of Michael Haneke, director of the similarly vile, hypocritical cinematic emetic Funny Games:
Are you prepared for the reaction to the movie here in America?
I hope that the slap in the face that I’m trying to give works here as well.
(I would like to thank the reviewer for the Houston Chronicle for the basic decency displayed in her review, thus sparing me the remote possibility of actually seeing it.)

So, Mr. von Trier and Mr. Haneke, consider this my big, fat middle finger, extended enthusiastically in your direction. If you both think that ugliness is the same as truth, and that provocation is the same thing as art, then heaven help you both. (We seem to have slid a long way from Keats.) For all its flaws, America is a better and more beautiful place than you understand, and its people are better on balance than I'd wager either of you are. That you are so smugly assured of your right to assault your audiences for their own good only serves to keep me out of them from here on out.


  1. What you said. Isn't there enough ugliness in Reality, so why must we must debase Art as well?

  2. ebert liked it, you should check out his review for a different perspective, if you haven't already.

  3. Well, I've read Ebert's review. It doesn't change my opinion one iota. If you would like to sit through a film about which a positive review says "Its images are a fork in the eye. Its cruelty is unrelenting. Its despair is profound," be my guest. My taste for unrelenting cruelty has waned, and I'm not particularly keen to subsidize the career of a man who seems intent on creating more of it.

    The film may not be "bad" in the same was as, say, Batman and Robin. However, I suspect its badness is much, much worse.