The reviewer doth protest too much, methinks

I am... not a big fan of Lars von Trier, despite my love for one of his films. I have made that plain, I think.

Over at Slate, Jessica Winter attempts a more nuanced view. I'm not sure she entirely succeeds.

Read the whole thing. I was struck by this conclusion, however:
[A]t the very least, von Trier's women are brave. They make things happen; they keep their promises. They are sinned against and sinning. Whether admirable, pitiable, or repellent, they are interesting. Nicole Kidman reportedly once asked von Trier, "Why are you so evil to women?"—but couldn't one ask the same of so many filmmakers who deal solely in shopaholic singles and grasping Bridezillas and buzz-kill spouses? Von Trier has got hang-ups, no question. But his saving grace is that he couldn't give an actress a standard "wife" or "girlfriend" role if his life depended on it.
First of all, I'd like to revel in the hilarity of von Trier directing a more conventional "women's movie." (My vote? The "Sex and the City" sequel. God only knows what he'd do with those Manolo Blahniks.)

I suppose what Winter writes is technically true. Nobody is going to argue that von Trier's women are boring. But man, are they brutalized. (I once read a review that noted how none of von Trier's leading ladies ever seem to sign up for another one of his films.) I stopped watching his films after Dancer in the Dark, wherein Bjork (who seems to have had a particularly rough time with him) plays a character so ridiculously pure that she would rather make an orphan of her child than break a meaningless promise. The suffering her character endures becomes laughably exploitative about halfway through, and that's before a cameo by Joel Grey than has to be seen to be believed.

One can, I'm sure, come up with all manner of fascinating theories for why von Trier treats his women this way. (I like Winter's musings about his parents.) I, myself, prefer a more straightforward explanation -- Lars von Trier makes movies in which women suffer because Lars von Trier likes to make movies in which women suffer.


  1. I'm giggling uncontrollably at the thought of Lars von Trier making the S&TC sequel.

  2. He may like making those movies, but he also thinks it is either a) artsy to make misogynistic films, and/or b) large numbers of moviegoers enjoy seeing women suffer. I think it is sick, so I don't go to watch LvT films, artsy or not.

  3. A writer at Slate says "has got"? Yikes.