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The Provocative Philosophy in the Cinema of Lars von Trier

Written by on July 26, 2016 


“I feel manipulated by you,” a viewer states to Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, “how do you feel about that?” Without pause, the director answers, “I feel wonderful.” This is a perfectly succinct summary of his provocative nature, from a man who is a self-proclaimed “manipulator,” and one that is explored extensively in a new video essay by Lewis Bond. Taking a look at all of Von Trier’s filmography, the essay delves into the provocateur’s breaking of traditional cinematic norms with an avant garde approach — through digressions, editing, and other techniques — and how von Trier subscribes to the philosophy that if an artist has some limits, an entirely new type of artistic freedom can be achieved.

Of particular interest is Bond’s insistence that the Melancholia director takes relatable aspects of the human condition and “elevates them to almost metaphysical levels,” which is a wonderful summary of his’s style. He also discusses how the Dogville helmer uses handheld camerawork for instances of human drama — as it most accurately represents the free-flow nature of human interaction — and reserves static (and often slow motion) frames for metaphors and ideas (when the human condition becomes a metaphysical exploration). Ever the rebel, he will start a story as drama, and then decide to shift the style and make it allegorical. This lack of adherence to one style of storytelling in a single story — while it is divisive and often puzzling — coupled with his provocative, unflinching eye assures one thing: there hasn’t been anyone quite like Lars von Trier.

Check out the essay below.

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