A Conversation with Lars von Trier/Interview 1/3

Uploaded by LarsVonTrierChannel on 23.01.2013

What have you got to say? What do you want to ask?
The Europe trilogy comprises three films that you made in the 80's.
When did it become a trilogy?
When the third film was finished, of course. But for me
It was a close collaboration with Niels Vørsel -
- who co-wrote the three films with me. We also acted in them.
I think it was in the pressbook for "Epidemic" -
- that the idea of the "E" was first born.
Niels was very interested in little symbols, -
- the copyright logo and that sort of thing.
We created the "E"-sign which appeared in "Epidemic", I think
Yes, it's on the screen all the way through.
Later, we learned that the sign actually exists, -
- signifying net weight or something. We didn't know that at the time.
The films obviously all deal with Europe in some way.
A recurring theme in all three films is Germany.
It's important to get to Germany.
There are links to Cairo in "The Element of Crime".
In "Epidemic", you and Vørsel are trying to write, -
- but you have to go to Germany and see the industrial areas.
And then you dive into the scar of history in Europe.
What was the thing with Germany and your fascination with it?
I think it was the meeting point for Niels and me in some ways.
Niels was much more fixated on Germany than me.
His brother lived in Cologne, and he was into everything German.
He was fascinated and disgusted at the same time.
That's open to interpretation, of course. But I had
Niels was more interested in the Germany of that time
The time when we wrote it, I.e. contemporary Germany
whereas I was very fascinated with World War ll.
Or rather interested in it.
Germany has always seemed dangerous.
For someone who travels as little as me, Germany is the world.
There, one is really far away from home.
It seems as if it becomes more and more tangible.
The film "Europa" is about
World War ll and factual history.
Whereas Europe and Germany are more symbolic concepts -
- in "The Element of Crime".
In "The Element of Crime" all names were in German.
We never hear where the story takes place, I think
I don't remember it completely.
But the towns have names like "Halbestadt"
When you made "The Element of Crime"
It was very A few people loved it.
Many people hated it. Especially in Denmark, among the older critics.
It came out in the 80's where the Danish film establishment-
- was much more concerned with realism in some form
Bille August made "Pelle the Conqueror".
Kaspar Rostrup made "Memories of a Marriage", -
- which was very different.
- Did they come out at the same time? - Yes, thereabouts.
Did you feel that you were typical of the time or not?
I've never thought about that, fortunately.
But it clearly has predecessors. Tarkovsky, of course.
It was a further development of something we did at the Film School.
Me and Tom and Tomas Gislason
As far as I'm concerned, a lot of it was based on Tarkovsky -
- whom I was just crazy about.
And I still am, except for his later films.
I'm still totally bewitched. There's been a lot on Swedish TV.
Did he die 10 years ago or something ...?
Well, there's been a lot of programmes on him recently.
Whether Tarkovsky was typical for his time, I'm not sure.
Tarkovsky is timeless, I think. He wasn't part of a trend.
His work didn't look like anything else.
So it's more been about my fascination.
I haven't tried to make anything particularly modern.
The things you said to the press about the film -
- sometimes had a very slogan-like quality:
"We want religion on the screen," for example.
Yes. But
That's probably true. I've probably done that several times.
I don't know how to justify it.
It's obvious that I, or we, knew that what we were doing was unique.
And that we did it in spite of, or in opposition to, -
- things which we thought were pure nonsense and a waste of time.
We were very enthusiastic. It was extremely hard to make it.
Lots of shooting at night Extremely difficult.
I couldn't even bear thinking of it today. But
But it was very much a reaction against
my films still are, I think a reaction against many things.
I still go to watch a film sometimes, expecting it to be good, -
- and then get really annoyed, and tired, and apathetic.
It should be possible
I ought to be able to make films which I myself can stand watching.
It was
"The Element of Crime" meant a lot to us.
We were absolutely sure how we wanted it to look.
Whether it was part of its time or not, I don't know.
If you know how a film should look, it probably is part of its time.
It fits well with what else was around in the 80's.
Yes, it has associations to the punk movement.
I don't know when punk was, but it was before that.
But if you'd asked us back then if we were inspired by the punk movement, -
- I don't think we would have thought so. Now I can see it, though.
Especially the sequences with the jumpers, I suppose?
Yes. The jumpers were actually based on a documentary -
- about these people who do it as a test of their manhood.
At that time bungee jumping didn't exist.
Later on, I got a letter describing someone -
- who jumped from the Eiffel Tower with a rubber thing around his legs.
I thought: "That's amazing. It's become reality."
But we didn't hear any rumours about people considering it.
We actually asked a circus performer if he would do it.
He let himself fall from his trapeze, and he also wore some rubber thing -
- to reduce the pull, so that his bones wouldn't get crushed.
We rejected that categorically. We'd rather do a special effect.
It shouldn't be for fun. It had to hurt.
So the rubber was We said no to rubber.
Back then, you said that "The Element of Crime" was a film about film.
You mentioned Tarkovsky. Is that one of the purposes of the film, -
- making links to other milestones in film history?
I suppose so. Another predecessor for it was "Touch of Evil".
There are probably references to that also, I think.
A film about film ...? That's putting it a bit strong.
But for me Since this was my first film, -
- everything was about film, and about film in the sense -
- that it's more about film itself than about the film's message.
In that way it's about film.
How seriously should we take the detective story in it?
Are the lottery murders only there to provide a labyrinth for us?
You certainly shouldn't see it as a social accusation -
- against someone murdering little girls.
The whole set-up is extremely cynical.
There are no emotions in the film, as far as I remember.
It's very cynical.
The murders are clearly building bricks -
- for the structure of the film.
I was I visited What's his name?
A Swedish director who taught at the Film School
He said it was very important in the beginning to do genre films.
We were convinced we were doing a genre movie: A murder mystery.
Apparently, not many others agreed with us. But
I went to some strange interviews.
One of them was among people who worked with crime fiction.
They analysed the plot and pointed out numerous inconsistencies.
You could probably do the same with "The Big Sleep".
I don't think many would
That was Chandler's method, when he wrote about Marlowe.
If he got stuck in the plot, he was knocked out, -
- and then he could wake up in a different place and go on from there.
The film is often mentioned in connection -
- with postmodernism as a style and concept.
I realise that you didn't set out to do a postmodern film, -
- but it's got the labyrinth feel, and in that way it resembles -
- Something like Paul Auster's New York trilogy, -
- which also has the idea of a pattern -
- written out on the city itself, on its geography.
In reality, it's not that important, but there is a hidden connection.
The thing about marking things I've never read Paul Auster, -
- but we used a lot of aesthetic effects, -
- or visual devices if you will, about marking things -
- and putting them into the wrong contexts.
A mark on a city, a wall, or a horse.
We had a lot of things, which
We didn't distinguish between right and wrong.
We said "fucking mythological".
When something was "fucking mythological", it was right.
Therefore you could
Tom, Tomas and I had made two films at the Film School:
A short film called "Nocturne", which was also Tarkovsky-inspired, -
- but had something else as well, -
- and "Images of a Relief", which was more pure Tarkovsky.
But it wasn't From there, we'd developed a method -
- to decide if things were "fucking mythological".
It was fucking mythological to have him lying on some forks.
Preferably with blades of grass sticking up, and snow falling.
We thought that sort of thing was wonderful.
It was Tarkovsky-like in the sense that we used his devices, -
- but in a slightly different way. He always uses water, for example.
- And we had a lot of water. - Water and darkness.
But the darkness wasn't Tarkovsky had some darkness, -
- maybe in "Stalker", which I haven't seen for ages.
We went all the way and made the entire film in darkness.
We didn't really care whether it was day or night.