Interview with Lars von Trier


A while ago we were wondering how Lars von Trier was doing because it had been reported that he was very depressed  and felt like quitting movies. But now he's back with his most offensive movie to date and he's still depressed and so is everyone who watches it! But let him do the talking. Oh, and there are SPOILERS. Like that scene with Bill Murray...

PK: How are you doing today?

LV: I'm actually okay. Today is an okay day.

PK: That's good. It's hit or miss, huh?

LV: (laughs) Yeah, sometimes.

PK: Would you recommend making a movie like this as a treatment for depression?

LV: Uh, yeah, well my treatment was more the work than the subject, if you understand what I mean. Just to get out of bed and do something. So, yeah I think I would recommend it. I don't know how many people have the opportunity, you know, to do a film to get cured. There would be a lot of films made.

PK: I bet, yeah. It's better than Prozac, though, I imagine.

LV: Yeah, Prozac is also good. But the problem about Prozac is it doesn't continue being good, you know? It holds for a couple of years.

PK: Yeah. Well, um, it seems like the subject of the film also is like conducive to treating depression. Like the "He" character, the film sort of confronts things that are terrifying and tries to make them less terrifying. Is that correct?

LV: The idea is normally when you panic, then your thoughts never get to your brain. You know, you panic before you think. And the idea is to think as soon as possible and then say to yourself, "Last time this happened, I was okay after a while so maybe I will be okay again after a while."

PK: So that's the therapy that the William Dafoe character is trying to apply to his wife.

LV: Yes, yes.

PK: And are you trying to. like, confront the things that terrify you by making this movie?

LV: Yes, I am trying to. It's easier said than done, you know. The end goal is of course to confront it, you know, to endure the full anxiety, and you know, get all the way over  for half an hour, but it's a painful half an hour. I don't know if you have anxieties yourself.

PK:. Um, would you say that you're more depressed after the film given some of the responses? Has that made you depressed also?

LV: No, no, no, no. I'm fine know, as I see it, some people like the film, some people don't. That is fine; I'm not trying to make a very broad film as you might know if you've seen other stuff I've done. No, no, it's fine. And it helped to get out, you know, I'm out of bed at the moment. So no, I'm quite content. So now the only problem is I'm supposed, or people would like to see me make another film, or some people would. So that's what I'm working on.

PK: Your new film is "Planet Melancholia?

LV: Yeah, it's, we call the film ‘Melancholia' even though there's a lot of films with the same name, but, yeah. A lot of directors use the same title. And it's with planets.

PK: "Antichrist" is dedicated to Tarkovsky; is your upcoming movie kind of like Tarkovsky's "Solaris?"

LV: I'm very, very fond of Tarkovsky, especially "The Mirror." I think he became a little weaker when he came to Western Europe. But "Solaris" is also a favorite of mine; I just re-saw a little of it again, yeah. If there's a film I would have liked to have made, it would have been "Solaris," yes.

PK: Is Planet Melancholia a happier place than Eden [the cabin where the couple in "Antichrist" go for the depression cure]?

LV: (laughs) I'm afraid there are no really happy places in my films. You know, Planet Melancholia is a black planet, which it had to be for itto be very close to Earth without being detected. It's a long story. It's not a happier place. I wouldn't recommend you go to Planet Melancholia.

PK: "Antichrist" reminded me of other films that you've done. Like "Medea." This seems to be like an alternative version of that earlier film.

LV: I'm not very fond of "Medea," the way I did it. But that's interesting. Maybe you can compare them because of the nature photography, in both of them, which we used quite a lot. But the "Medea" I did was from a script by Carl Dreyer. No, it's not my favorite.

PK: Sorry to bring it up. But the theme of the woman who is wronged by a very sort of calculating man, and then responds in a very violent way, seems similar to the one in this film.

LV: I can see that. I have thought about it.

PK: Are you tired of people asking about misogyny?

LV: No. My one problem is that it's so difficult to pronounce that I try to avoid the word, you know? No - it's like kind of deciding to hate elephants. That's kind of ridiculous, you know. You can hate the one elephant that's after you, but hating elephants in general is kind of silly. I made many films with women and about women so no. Yeah, people tend to ask me.

PK: I thought your best response to that question was that you identify with the woman characters in your film.

LV: I think that is right. I think that the female characters in my film are more believable than the male characters. The male characters just tend to be idiots, all of them doing something completely wrong. And whereas the women just tend to follow their nature somehow.

PK: William Dafoe, and I think you've mentioned this in another  interview, is probably the worst therapist in the history of movies. How would you advise him to treat the Charlotte Gainsborough character, and what does he do wrong?

LV: Yeah, first of all, I have been undergoing this cognitive therapy for three years, and I think it's quite typical for me to be sarcastic [about it]. You can say that one of the main ideas behind any treatment of this kind  is that a fear is a thought, and, you know, it doesn't change reality. But you can say in the film it's changed reality. But I wouldn't let him treat her in any other way than with his dick. He has an enormous dick; he's extremely well-equipped. And we had to kind of take those scenes out of the film, we had a stand-in for him, we had to take the scenes out with his own dick.

PK: You had a stand-in dick? You had to have a stand in dick for Dafoe?

LV: Yes, yes, we had to, because Will's own was too big.

PK: Too big to fit in the screen?

LV: (laughs) No, too big because everybody got very confused when they saw it.

PK: People should get intimidated. Especially when he-

LV: Especially when he-?

PK: When he ejaculates blood, that was uh-

LV: Oh yeah, yeah. That was the double.

PK: It's quite a trick.

LV: Uh, yes.

PK: You didn't have a stand-in, though, for Charlotte {Gainsbourgh] and her self-editing scene, her snipping scene.

LV: Yes, we also had a stand-in for that. Otherwise we could only do it once.

PK: You used some sort of prosthetic, I imagine, for that scene.

LV: Yeah, let's say that, yes.

PK: One thing that strikes me about the film, what I find more disturbing maybe than the genital mutilation, is there seems to be an attitude that existence itself is evil. Do you think that's true?

LV: Yes, I believe I do. The idea for the film came after I had seen a film about the original forests of Europe and I found out, maybe you read this somewhere before - you know this image we all have of this fantastic, romantic place in a forest? It actually is an image of the place that represents ultimate pain and struggle. Because if you go to a park, there's not so much struggle. But in this original forest there's kind of the maximum of life and death. I thought that was quite interesting that I would also, if I had to think of a very good place where I had no fears, and so on, it would be kind of in a place like this. And then, on the other hand, knowing that this was in fact a place full of all this suffering.


PK: In fairy tales the characters are warned not to go into the forest. For good reason apparently.

LV: But that is because again, I think the forest kind of represents nature, and nature is always, sexuality is also, I believe, nature, so nature has always in fairy tales also been seen, I think, seen as dangerous.

PK: The word "nature" comes from the Latin word "to be born." Is this film kind of a statement against reproduction?

LV: (laughs) No. Actually it's not so much, it's not a statement at all, I would say. I don't make statements...

PK: It's kind of an allegory. It seems like a number of your films lately have been allegorical, which is sometimes used as a derogatory term, but I think that it's more of an allegory like Dante's "Divine Comedy" or something like that. Do you see yourself as an allegorist? A religious allegorist?

LV: (laughs) No, no. I don't see myself as anything. No, I do not see myself or the film... I try not to analyze what I'm doing, or the film. I try to make films instinctively, if there's such a word, or intuitively. The films that I really like are... yeah, of course you can see anything as symbolism, but I prefer films that are intuitive and chaotic. My English is just terrible today; I'm sorry. The more a film seems to come in a natural way, or I would say, the less mathematics you can see in a film, and the less, also, symbols, because I think symbols are fine when you see a film, but symbols are not so interesting to use when you write it. So symbols I think are a waste of time.

Next: Don't trust the first fox you meet.


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