On fascism and Von Trier

January 5, 2010

Sometimes conversations on Facebook are too interesting not to share with all. This one started in a response to a Mr Steve Baker’s viewing of Lars Von Trier’s new film AntiChrist. Enjoy!
Antichrist is a film about misogyny. Its message sits there in broad daylight out in the open. Von Trier had been accused of misogyny in the past, unfairly in most cases, I’d say. But, this time I think he went for it. He had a misogyny adviser on set, even! Sort of daring, I thought. Though not his best film. To me Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and Manderlay are four stone cold masterpieces. This was as good as The Boss of it All, his fun take on hierarchies and authority. Von Trier is an interesting new variety of right wing reactionary that confuses all the post modern wankers out there, hence, naturally, I love his work.
Steve Baker
Steve Baker

A misogyny advisor?! Wow… I must admit, it was not the story I cared about. The strange atmos and bold artistry of it all just swept me up. The film felt like staring at a beautiful painting that slapped me in the face from time to time. I have immense respect for Von Trier, simply cause he does whatever he wants to do. You gotta love that. …However his rather lame sense of melodrama is what lets his films down at times, at least in my opinion. If you’re going to be melodramatic, learn from the master – Lynch. And Dogme! Please… The day I follow 10 idiotic rules to make a film is the day I shoot myself… Other than that, he’s amazing!
Richard Wolstencroft
Richard Wolstencroft

Well the melodrama in Breaking The Waves is to make a theological point. In say Dancer in the Dark its an exercise in sadism… people often mistake what Van Trier does to his characters in that film as being in some empathetic. It is not. He tortures Bjork’s character in a sadistic manner, again most likely to make a theological point on the nature of God. The Dogme rules are a great reaction to the CGI shit cinema that is Legion these days. Of course, they are another one of his pranks, attempting to make people seek certificates and obey rules, but I feel the message behind the prank of getting cinema back to basics and parring it down is sincere. One doesn’t need his certificate or approval, but his ideas are fascinating. That’s why he is (…or could be) as he says he is ‘the world’s greatest living director’. The scary thing about that statement, obviously, is he may be right…?

That is interesting – if I think about his films without the empathy, then they completely different. Almost nasty… I totally get the sincerity behind dogme, and also that it was sort of a prank. It just didn’t feel like a very smart one. It felt like some kids paying in the backyard. If he had put some actual intelligent thought into making a movement or stand against studio cgi etc, then perhaps he could have created something special… At the end of the day he’s just as interested in self promotion as he is creating art. Hey have you seen Martyrs? Holyshit! For the first time in my life I almost wussed out and couldn’t finish a film, but I’m so glad I did. The 2nd half blew me away. It took the idea of true horror in cinema to a whole new level. I was even strangely moved by the notion of what these people were doing.
He is an interesting visual stylist and mood creator. But he’s just disappointed me with what has to say in films since Breaking the Waves. He’s got a nasty little sadistic point of view, particularly with women, which he was blatant about in Antichrist. His scripts are terrible and his point of view juvenile. I think the amount of medication he took for his depression really impacted on Antichrist. A misogyny advisor? Why is that interesting? I think dogme actually is his most interesting contribution and has had an incredible effect on the democratising the movie business. It was a reaction to studio films…and some great works came out of it. Festen, Open Hearts, etc.
Almost nasty. They are nasty. Von Trier deconstructs narrative and replaces it with sadism, cruelty and violence for its own sake. Martyrs is full on, it even had me stop it two thirds of the way in for a break, but I soldiered on and the ending was great. Still a sick, sick film. I do not think Von Trier’s scripts are terrible. Dogville is superb for example like a play. Dogme is cool and transgressive and not done just for self promotion.
But the essence of what he’s saying in his films seems so purile and reductive that i don’t get it. yes the forms interesting, and i’ll give you that about dogville and dancer. but the story of a woman who’s persecuted by a small town with a chain around her neck seeks revenge in a massacre. what’s so insightful about that? i guess i’m not that into his nasty content because he dresses it up in art house form. in fact, i really don’t like him because of it. i absolutely agree about dogme though…it totally was transgressive and cool, and helped create some awesome cinema.
Richard Wolstencroft
I do not think its purile, I think his positions are very dark and daring. He is a true pessimist and misanthrope. I think Von Trier is also a sort of fascist filmmaker, and he arrives there from his previous attributes mentioned above. The “Von” is effected, by the way, so he sounds more Germanic. His real name is Lars Trier. His goal is to take exploitative subject matter and turn it into high subversive fascist art, which he does. I think he makes interesting right wing statements on religion and martyrdom (Breaking the Waves), misanthropy and control (Dancer in the Dark), the desire to exterminate the awfulness of most of humanity (Dogville), the pointlessness of freeing any type of slave, as they are even worse than than their masters when free (Manderlay), the hidden evil and absurd comedy of democratic and social power (Boss of it All) and the evil destructive essence of women (AntiChrist). The biggest joke is people don’t see his vast reactionary agenda, and treat him as some kind of post modern god…
Stephen Lance

Mmmm…I guess I just don’t like the way he exploits the medium and his actors for such fascist desires. I don’t like ring wing agendas and the idea of embracing a film about the evil destructive essence of women seems ridiculous, to the point of hilarity. it’s just too reductive for me. but thank god you’re out there for him.
Steve Baker…perhaps one thing we could all agree on – he would love us debating over him??? Therefore he wins!?

Richard Wolstencroft
Well I don’t think he is saying that all women are that way. Its more a personal pessimistic musing on the nature of women. He is making politico-theological statements on the human condition, as he sees it. He may not even recommend any political platform, or position from this. The breadth of his nihilism is impressive, though. Whether you agree with him sometimes, or no, his positions provoke… as they do ring true on occasion. Are not people often miserable and worthless? Is not nature and humanity vastly cruel? Is democratic Western government not a sham that hides the powerful and privileged pulling the levers? Though I think his AntiChrist is the weakest statement, and hardest to swallow. Women hardly like to allow their children to be killed as portrayed in that film. Unless one talks about the unconscious and dark desires within, which I think he is to some extent…the dark feminine unconscious of which Freud spoke, etc…

One Response to “On fascism and Von Trier”

  1. Rups said

    MUFF going to tip over the censors this year? 🙂

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