Lars von Trier

Infobox Actor
name = Lars von Trier

caption = Lars von Trier at Cannes in 2000
birthname = Lars Trier
birthdate = birth date and age|1956|4|30
birthplace = Copenhagen, Denmark
occupation = Film director and screenwriter
spouse = Cæcilia Holbek (div.1996)
Bente Frøge (1997-)
cesarawards = Best Foreign Film
1996 "Breaking the Waves"
goyaawards = Best European Film
2000 "Dancer in the Dark"
awards = Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film
2000 "Dancer in the Dark"
NSFC Award for Best Director
1996 "Breaking the Waves"
NYFCC Award for Best Director
1996 "Breaking the Waves"

Lars von Trier (born Lars Trier, April 30, 1956) is a Danish film director and screenwriter. He is closely associated with the Dogme 95 collective, although his own films have taken a variety of different approaches.


Lars Trier was born in Copenhagen to Ulf and Inger Trier, who both worked for Denmark's social services. His parents considered themselves both communists and committed nudists, [In "Trier on von Trier", by Stig Bjorkman, 2005] and the young Lars endured several childhood holidays to nudist camps. They regarded the disciplining of children as hopelessly reactionary. Trier notes that he was brought up in an atheist family, and that although his stepfather was Jewish, he was not religious. His parents did not allow much room in their household for "feelings, religion, or enjoyment," and also refused to make any rules for their children, with complex results for von Trier's personality and development. [See [ here] . An article by Karen Durbin in the "Good Weekend", entitled "Every Dane has his Dogma," and dated June 17, 2000, states (p. 35): "Von Trier is a red-nappy baby. His mother was a Communist, his father a Social Democrat, and both worked in Denmark's social services ministry. They met during World War II in Sweden after fleeing the Nazi occupation of Denmark, 'my father because he was Jewish and my mother because she was in the Resistance.' They were also dedicated nudists (although less so than the relative von Trier describes who kept his apartment warm and 'was always completely naked, on principle'). His childhood included occasional holidays at nudist camps. 'It was very strange,' he says. 'Kind of charming'." In the book," Lars von Trier: Interviews" (edited by Jan Lumholdt), von Trier makes numerous references to his "culturally radical" upbringing and its consequences, for instance the following (p. 109): "Religion was totally forbidden, and it has always interested me. At the same time I'm a neurotic person and my biggest problem in life is control or the lack of control. [...] As a child, you create all kinds of rituals to maintain control. I was very scared of the atom bomb, so every night when I went to bed I had to perform all these rituals to save the world. And from a psychological point of view, religion is a continuation of these childhood rituals, which are there to prevent everything from reverting back to chaos." And (on p. 116), von Trier explains the consequences of his unusual upbringing for his adult and professional life: "I think that these ideas about control and chaos stem from my upbringing, which was unbelievably lax. There were no rules whatsoever, which creates a lot of problems, like deciding when you should go to the dentist, because everything's up to you yourself. And in that case, you end up not getting things done and that creates a lot of anxiety. I also had to force myself to do my homework, because no one told me when I had to do it. When there's nobody to enforce discipline upon you, then you have to enforce it from within. That, in return, has made me incredibly disciplined at my work today—I work all the time. But at the same time it's a tremendous source of anxiety that everything is "your" decision. Of course this has given me great faith in my own creativity—almost like a christening gift."] The young Lars found in cinema an outlet to the outside world through which he could learn about subjects otherwise forbidden from his study by his parents. He began making his own films at the age of 11 after receiving a Super-8 camera as a gift and continued to be involved in independent moviemaking throughout his high school years. [,_Lars/Biography/ Biography] ]

In 1979 he was enrolled in the Danish Film School. [ The Tomb: Lars von Trier Interview] ] During his time as a student at the school he made the films "Nocturne" ("Nocturne", 1980) and "Image of Liberation" ("Befrielsesbilleder," 1982), both of which won Best Film awards at the Munich Film Festival, along with "The Last Detail" ("Den sidste detalje" 1981). His peers at the film school nicknamed him "von Trier." The name is sort of an inside-joke with the von part suggesting nobility, while Lars and Trier are quite common names in Denmark. He reportedly kept the "von" name in homage to Erich von Stroheim and Josef von Sternberg. He graduated from the film school in 1983.

After his graduation he began work on the Europe trilogy, which started with "The Element of Crime" ("Forbrydelsens element" 1984). The film was a technical accomplishment and won a technical award at the Cannes Film Festival. This film was followed by "Epidemic" (1987) that was also shown as part of the official programme at Cannes. For television von Trier directed "Medea" (1988) which won the Jean d'Arcy prize in France. He then finished the Europe trilogy in 1991 with "Europa" (initially released as "Zentropa" in the U.S.), which won the Prix du Jury at Cannes Film Festival and picked up awards at other major festivals. In 1990 he also directed the music video for the worldwide hit "Bakerman" by Laid Back. This video was reused in 2006 by the English DJ and artist Shaun Baker who did a remake of Bakerman.

In 1992 he co-founded together with producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen the movie production company Zentropa Entertainment, named after their most recent film at the time. The reason for doing this was to achieve financial independence and to have total creative control. The production company has produced many movies other than von Trier's own as well as television series. It is also the world's only mainstream film studio to have produced hardcore sex films: "Constance" (1998), "Pink Prison" (1999), "HotMen CoolBoyz" (2000) and "All About Anna" (2005).

In order to make money for his newly founded company, [ Lars von Trier fan site biography] ] he made "The Kingdom" ("Riget", 1994) and "The Kingdom II" ("Riget II", 1997), a pair of miniseries recorded in the Danish national hospital, the name "Riget" being a slang term for the hospital known as Rigshospitalet (lit. The Kingdom's Hospital) in Danish. A projected third installment in the series has been derailed due to the death of Ernst-Hugo Järegård, who played Helmer, one of the major characters.

In 1995, von Trier's mother revealed on her deathbed that the man who he thought was father was not. After one meeting with his real father, the man refused further contact. [ [ Stranger than fiction] "Sydney Morning Herald", December 22, 2003] The revelations led von Trier to attempt to "erase" the connections with his stepfather by converting to Catholicism, and to rework his filmmaking into a style emphasizing "honesty". The latter change led to von Trier's co-founding the Dogme 95 movement.

Dogme techniques influenced von Trier's next film, "Breaking the Waves" (1996) which won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The film featured Emily Watson, who was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Lars von Trier overcame his dislike of traveling to present his first pure Dogme film, "The Idiots" ("Idioterne", 1998), in person at the Cannes film festival. As instructor and originator of the Dogme95 concept, which has led to international interest in Danish film as a whole, he has inspired filmmakers all over the world.

Also in 1996, von Trier conducted an unusual theatrical experiment in Copenhagen involving 53 actors, which he entitled "Psychomobile 1 – The World Clock". A documentary chronicling the project was directed by Jesper Jargil, and was released in 2000 with the title "De Udstillede" ("The Exhibited").

In 2000, von Trier premiered a musical featuring Icelandic musician Björk, "Dancer in the Dark". The film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. The song "I've Seen It All" (which Trier co-wrote) received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song.

He then produced two films in his 'U.S. trilogy', Dogville (2003) and "Manderlay" (2005). "Dogville", starred Nicole Kidman, and met with mixed critical reaction. Some viewers considered the film bold and powerfulFact|date=May 2008, while others found it pretentious and affected. Fact|date=May 2008

In 2006 he released a Danish comedy film "The Boss of it All". It has been shot using a process that von Trier has called Automavision, which involves the director choosing the best possible fixed camera position and then allowing a computer to choose when to tilt, pan or zoom.

He is currently working on a horror movie, "Antichrist", which postulates the Earth was created by Satan rather than God. Shooting will start in Germany in summer 2008.


Von Trier suffers from multiple phobias, including an intense fear of flying. As the director once put it, "Basically, I'm afraid of everything in life, except filmmaking." His fear of air travel frequently places severely limiting constraints on him and his crew, necessitating that virtually all of his films be shot in either Denmark or Sweden, even those set in the United States or other foreign countries. Von Trier has had a number of his films featured at the Cannes Film Festival over the course of his career, and each time has insisted on driving from Denmark to France for the festival and back.

On numerous occasions von Trier has also stated that he suffers from occasional depression which renders him incapable of performing his work and unable to uphold social relations.

Filming techniques

Lars von Trier has said that “a film should be like a rock in the shoe”. In order to create original art he feels that filmmakers must distinguish themselves stylistically from other films, often by placing restrictions on the filmmaking process. The most famous restriction is the cinematic "vow of chastity" of the Dogme95 movement with which he is associated, though only one of his films, "The Idiots", is an actual Dogme 95 film. In "Dancer in the Dark", dramatically-different color palettes and camera techniques were used for the "real world" and musical portions of the film, and in "Dogville" everything was filmed on a sound stage with no set where the walls of the buildings in the fictional town were marked as a line on the floor.

Von Trier often shoots his scenes for longer periods than most directors to encourage actors to stay in character. In "Dogville" he let actors stay in character for hours, in the style of method acting. These techniques often put great strain on actors, most famously with Björk during the filming of "Dancer in the Dark". Like many auteurs, he uses the same regular group of actors in many of his films. Some of his frequently used actors are Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Kier and Stellan Skarsgård.

He is heavily influenced by the work of Carl Theodor Dreyer and the film "The Night Porter". He was so inspired by the short film "The Perfect Human" directed by Jørgen Leth that he challenged Leth to redo the short five times in feature film "The Five Obstructions".


Von Trier has on occasion referred to his films as falling into thematic and stylistic trilogies. This pattern began with his first feature film, marking the beginning of The "Europe" Trilogy, though he claims a trilogy was not initially planned, instead being applied to the films in retrospect. The Europe trilogy illuminated the traumas of Europe in the past and future. This trilogy includes "The Element of Crime" (1984), "Epidemic" (1988) and "Europa" (1991).

The "Golden Heart" trilogy was about naive heroines who maintain their 'golden hearts' despite the tragedies they experience. This trilogy includes "Breaking the Waves" (1996), "The Idiots" (1998) and "Dancer in the Dark" (2000). While all three films are sometimes associated with the Dogme 95 movement, only "The Idiots" is a certified Dogme 95 film.

The "USA - Land of Opportunities" trilogy follows the character of Grace, and is set in a stylized American past. Von Trier has stated he was inspired to make a trilogy about the United States as a reaction to Americans at the Cannes film festival who said he had no right to make the "Dancer in the Dark", which was often viewed as being critical of a country he has never been to (and has no intention of ever visiting, due to his phobia of travel); however, von Trier himself has stated in interviews he did not intend it to be a criticism of America, saying the film takes place in a "fictional America." Lars von Trier proposed the films as ‘a series of sermons on America’s sins and hypocrisy’, inspired by the fact that American movie makers have made many movies about places across the world to which they have not travelled. All three movies will be shot in the same distinctive style, on a bare sound stage with no set and buildings marked by lines on the floor. This style is inspired by 1970s televised theatre. The trilogy consists of "Dogville" (2003), "Manderlay" (2005) and "Wasington" [sic] (in production).

"The Kingdom" ("Riget") was planned as a trilogy of three seasons with 13 episodes in total, but the third season was not filmed due to death of star Ernst-Hugo Järegård shortly after completion of the second season.

Feature filmography

*"The Element of Crime" (1984, part one of the "Europe" trilogy)
*"Epidemic" (1987, part two of the "Europe" trilogy)
*"Europa / Zentropa" (1991, part three of the "Europe" trilogy)
*"Breaking the Waves"' (1996, part one of the "Golden Heart" trilogy)
*"Idioterne / The Idiots" (1998, part two of the "Golden Heart" trilogy)
*"Dancer in the Dark" (2000, part three of the "Golden Heart" trilogy)
*"Dogville" (2003, part one of the "USA: Land of Opportunity" trilogy)
*"De fem benspænd / The Five Obstructions" (2003)
*"Manderlay" (2005, part two of the "USA: Land of Opportunity" trilogy)
*"Direktøren for det hele / The Boss of It All" (2006)
*"Anti-Christ" (2008) "pre-production"
*"Wasington" (shelved indefinitely, part three of the "USA: Land of Opportunity" trilogy)

Television filmography

*"Medea" (TV movie, 1988)
*"Riget / The Kingdom" (TV miniseries, 1994)
*"Riget II / The Kingdom II" (TV miniseries, 1997)
*"D-Dag" (segment: "Lise") (TV movie, 2000)

hort filmography

*"Orchidégartneren / The Orchid Gardener" (1977)
*"Menthe - La bienheureuse" (1979)
*"Nocturne" (1980)
*"Den sidste detalje / The Last Detail" (1981)
*"Befrielsesbilleder / Images of a Relief" (1982)
*"Chacun son cinéma / To Each His Own Cinema" (segment: "Occupations") (2007)


External links

* [ Lars from 1-10]
* [ Production Company]
* [ Entry at]
* [ Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database]
* [ The Independent Weekly: "Does Lars von Trier hate America? Or does he just hate America's movies?]
* [ Lars von Trier bibliography] (via UC Berkeley)
* [ "I am an American woman"] English translation of interview of Lars von Trier [ in the newspaper Die Zeit]
* [ Ware Filme] - essay in German language about von Triers "Europe Trilogy"
* [,,1878115,00.html 'I'm a control freak - but I was not in control'] – interview
* [,,1926609,00.html Slave to cinema] - interview
* [ SiouxWIRE] - interview compilation
* [ The Age Interview]
* [ Dogme95]
* [ Scandinavian film channel] - TV channel with focus on Scandinavian film productions.
* [ DVD Review of "The Idiots"] at [ Alternative Film Guide]

NAME= Trier, Lars von
DATE OF BIRTH= Birth date and age|1956|4|30|mf=y
PLACE OF BIRTH= Copenhagen, Denmark

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