Lars von TrierDanish Cinematic Button-Pusher By Eric Schneider
The enfant terrible of Scandinavian cinema.
An unapologetic provocateur, Danish writer/director Lars von Trier makes films that are frequently difficult and disturbing, yet also emotionally engaging and often oddly hypnotic. The Scandinavian auteur added the "von" to his name during his school days out of sheer audacity, and his cinematic work has followed suit. He first garnered international attention with his extremely unconventional 1996 love story Breaking the Waves, starring Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard, and later unveiled the controversial comedic drama The Idiots, a production created in accordance with the naturalistic, anti-effects Dogme 95 principles that he established with fellow filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg. Soon cinephiles began looking into von Trier's earlier work, most notably the surreal (and unfinished) Danish supernatural miniseries The Kingdom, which revealed a surprising stylistic range. After devastating audiences with his lauded 2000 melodrama Dancer in the Dark, featuring Icelandic pop star Björk, von Trier proceeded to rope other high-profile names into his projects, including Nicole Kidman, who led the cast of his spare, scathing Dogville. Though he later receded from the international spotlight and fell into a bout of severe depression, von Trier re-emerged in '09 bearing his harrowing neo-horror film Antichrist, with the volatile director's many anxieties fueling his unsettling imagination.