Archive for the ‘Lars von Trier’ Category

Love = Lust + Jealousy

Nymphomaniac Vol: 1 and 2

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Director: Lars von Trier

Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe, Connie Nielsen, Jamie Bell, Stacy Martin, Udo Kier

Unlike 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen’s handsome New York set film about sex addiction, the highly acclaimed Shame, starring a gorgeous yet libidinous Michael Fassbender, Danish director and auteur, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac Volumes 1 and 2 is on an entirely different level.

Explicit, provocative, brutal and shocking, this is von Trier’s seminal work on Freudian psycho-analytic film theory, the nature of sexuality and of society’s views on sexual deviancy and obsession. Warning these two films, making up a total of four hours viewing time is NOT for sensitive or prudish cinema goers.

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Von Trier’s favourite muse Charlotte Gainsbourg (Anti-Christ) stars as Joe, a relentless nymphomaniac who is discovered beaten in a dark city alley way by a seemingly kind mysterious bachelor Seligman played by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, Girl with The Dragon Tattoo). As Joe recovers with copious cups of tea in Seligman’s drab apartment she frankly recounts in episodic form her life thus far as a nymphomaniac and the events leading up to her supposed downfall.

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The younger version of Joe is played by Stacy Martin who as a young licentious teenager seduces all the men on the train in a bet with her friend B, played by Sophie Kennedy Clark. The sex scenes are graphic and unrelenting. Her insatiable sexual appetite is temporarily quelled when she meets Jerome wonderfully played by Shia LaBeouf, who has definitely come a long way from his Transformers movies. LaBeouf proves to be superb as the equally lustful Jerome, who apparently sent a sex tape to von Trier as part of his audition for this part in Nymphomaniac. It proves that Shia LaBeouf is willing to take major risks as an actor and more recently as a notorious performance artist.

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Joe as a young girl displays her close relationship with her father played by Christian Slater (True Romance) and her non-existent relationship with her aloof mother played by Connie Nielsen (Gladiator). As Joe’s sexual awakening becomes more ferocious she ventures into some dark territory particularly as she resumes a relationship with Jerome and attempts to settle down and lead a normal existence. All this is shot in grey colours with lots of graphic nudity and sex, with von Trier intentionally deglamourizing sex and sensuality on screen and deliberately punctuating these pornographic images with bizarre directorial screenshots of fly fishing, predators, sunsets and forests.

In between Joe’s sexual adventures all done in flashbacks, is the frank discussion between the mature Joe a scarred Gainsbourg and the supposedly asexual Seligman, who provides some intellectual insights into her sex addiction along with Freudian psychoanalysis and historical anecdotes. As Seligman explains in Volume 2, that all children are born with polymorphic sexual perversions according to Freud which gradually are repressed or discovered  latently as the child becomes an adult and thus manifests itself in later life. This is classic Freudian psychoanalysis. Even Love is equated to Lust+ Jealousy.

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So despite all the subliminal theory and explicit pornography, is Nymphomaniac Volumes 1 and 2 any good? Volume 1 is better than Volume 2, a more superior and controlled film but the entire diatribe about Nymphomania could have been edited into a more concise and elegant film. Then again Von Trier is not one to bow to Western film aesthetics and has never done so. His film 2003 Dogville was shot without sets in a sparse Brechtian style about a close knit community who does not accept outsiders with Nicole Kidman in the lead.

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Nymphomania Volume 1 and 2 is not easy or comfortable viewing, but that its point. Especially Volume 2 where Joe’s sexual addiction takes her into the dangerous world of Sadomasochism, cue a rather sadistic master K played by Jamie Bell of The Eagle and Billy Eliot Fame. There are also brief appearances by Uma Thurman as a wronged wife Mrs H. whose husband has fallen for the nubile, precocious and younger Joe, bravely played by Stacy Martin and Willem Dafoe as Joe’s last employer a shady debt collector.

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What should really be applauded is the bravery that these actors show in starring in such an explicit, unconventional and shocking film including Stacy Martin, Christian Slater, Shia LaBeouf and naturally Charlotte Gainsbourg (Anti-Christ). Audiences might want to walk out in several particularly disturbing scenes, but it’s worth staying until the end of Joe’s confession to Seligman, as all is not what it seems… Those not familiar with Lars von Trier’s previous films should definitely stay away.

2000 Cannes Film Festival

2000 Cannes Film Festival Winners

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Winners of the five main prizes at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival were as follows:

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Palm d’Or – Dancer in the Dark directed by Lars von Trier

Best Director – Edward YangYiyi

Best Actor – Tony Leung Chi Wai – Fa Yeung na Win

Best Actress – Bjork – Dancer in the Dark

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Best Screenplay – James Flamberg and John C. Richards – Nurse Betty

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Cannes_Film_Festival

Fear in a Forest of Despair

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Fear in a forest of imaginary angst and abysmal despair….

So the controversial Danish director Lars Von Trier premiered his new film Anti-Christ at the Cannes film festival in May 2009, where it was alternately jeered and praised. I was fortunate enough to catch a late screening of the film at the Durban International Film Festival http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ in July, knowing that Anti-Christ due to its explicit content and supreme visual style would not make the Cinema Nouveau circuit by any stretch of the imagination and surely I was not disappointed in any expectations of controversy.

No love lost in this demonic garden...

No love lost in this demonic garden…

Anti-Christ featuring a powerful performance by Charlotte Gainsbourg who received a best actress at Cannes and an equally disturbing performance by Willem Dafoe as a couple in Washington state who due to the tragic death of their child suffer a breakdown of psychological emotional and physical proportions second to none. The film, like Dogville is stylised and divided into chapters and while initially you wonder what the fuss is about, you soon find yourself watching explicit porno-graphic images coupled with some more violent and deeply disturbing sequences of self-mutilation as the protagonists marriage unravels to a point of utter destruction towards the final act. The disturbing scenes set in a forest lodge where all the couples fears and angers can be played out to the edge of insanity is part horror film reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project and part The War of the Roses without the trappings of material possessions. Dafoe, as  psychologist and father questions his wife after her initial mental breakdown and says “What is your greatest fear?”

Her answer is “Being alone in the Forest”.

Facing those fears lead the couple on a downward psychological and often disturbing journey into the depths of their own depravity and soon any defiance of social conventions are evident and fulfilled where in this destruction only nature takes precedence. Is this the proverbial tale of Adam and Eve fighting in an imaginary Garden of Eden? No, its more like after they have been corrupted and expelled into the wilderness of their own disintegration, violence and abysmal despair.

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Anti-Christ is not for the faint-hearted and will definitely cause debate, sometimes derision and certain denouncement. Lars von Trier known for his unusual eccentricities like a fear of flying and being raised by a family of nudists is show to demonstrate all these idiosyncrasies in his uncompromising and thought-provoking style.

If you enjoyed Dogville or Breaking the Waves, you might be curious to watch Anti-Christ, but warnings abound as to its explicit content and offensive treatment of the destruction of a marriage. As for his notoriety that is secure, von Trier as director will continually attract art-house cinema-goers and actors who wish to work with an auteur that will expectantly push the boundaries of their craft in a Brechtian and creative way.

The fact that von Trier has attracted big stars to his films like Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Emily Watson and Willem Dafoe is testament to his allure as a stylish and innovatively unconventional director, a Danish version of David Lynch with far more intensity and stark realism…. after all both Lynch and von Trier managed to garner huge attention at festivals around the world and their movies whether it be Blue Velvet or Anti-Christ will be classics of the controversial kind. As for Willem Dafoe, that truly enigmatic actor, who attracted critical praise in Shadow of a Vampire, has now appeared in both a von Trier and a David Lynch film. Who can forget that trailer park, leather clad seduction sequence that Dafoe performed with sinister dedication to the naive Laura Dern in Wild at Heart?

Luscious Lula saved by the interminable Sailor

Luscious Lula saved by the interminable Sailor

 

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