Breaking the Waves
“My films are about ideals that clash with the world. Every time it's a man in the lead, they have forgotten about the ideals. And every time it's a woman in the lead, they take the ideals all the way.” Lars Von Trier
A bona fide Danish film director and scriptwriter intimately linked to the Dogme 95 collective despite having produced many projects with various formulas, Lars Von Trier first acquired worldwide recognition with “Europa” (1991), the third and last of his “European” trilogy. A festival hit, the dark comic/drama won two Cannes Film Festival Awards and many other honors at major film festivals. The first and the second of the trilogy, “The Element of Crime/Forbrydelsens element” (1984) and “Epidemic” (1987), respectively, also were shown at the Cannes Film Festival and earned the accomplished filmmaker extensive recognition. The Dogme co-founder enjoyed an even bigger victory with the art house smash “Breaking the Waves” (1996), which brought star Emily Watson an Oscar nomination. For his bravura work, Von Trier received a César Award, a Golden Satellite Award, a New York Film Critics Circle Award, a Vancouver International Film Festival Award and the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes, among others. “Dancer in the Dark” (2000) brought Von Trier his first Golden Palm at the Cannes and an Independent Spirit Award, in addition to his first and to date only Academy Award nomination for co-penning the lyrics of “I've Seen It All.”
“A big part of our lives has to do with America. In our country it is overwhelming. I feel there could just as well be an American military presence in Denmark. We are a nation under a very bad influence, because I think Bush is an a**hole and doing a lot of really stupid things. America is sitting on the world and therefore I am making films about it. I'd say 60% of the things I have experienced in my life are American, so in fact I am an American. But I can't go there and vote. That's why I am making films about America.” Lars Von Trier
Recently, Von Trier is known for his trilogy series “USA - Land of Opportunities.” The trio comprises of “Dogville” (2004), starring Nicole Kidman, the Golden Palm-nominated “Manderlay” (2005), starring Bryce Dallas Howard, and “Wasington,” slated to be released in 2009.
Von Trier is also noted for directing the successful miniseries “The Kingdom/Riget” (1994) and its sequel, “Riget II” (1997). He is the scriptwriter of 2005's “Dear Wendy.”
Von Trier and his wife of 11 years, Bente Frøge, have two children. He also has two more children from his previous marriage to Cæcilia Holbek Trier.
Childhood and Family:
Lars Trier was born on April 30, 1956, in Copenhagen, Denmark, to radical, nudist communist parents. He grew up in a very unconventional family where his parents did not permit much space in their household for “religion, feelings, or enjoyment.” As a result, young Lars became neurotic, left-winged and an avid movie lover. With his Super-8 camera given as a gift on his eleventh birthday, he spent much of his time making films and later became involved in independent moviemaking. After high school, he went on to gain formal training at the National Film School of Denmark in Copenhagen, Denmark, and graduated with honors in 1983. It was in film school that Lars received the nickname “Von Trier” from his classmates. Lars also attended the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
Lars has been married twice. He and first wife Cæcilia Holbek Trier divorced in 1996. They have two children together. Lars then married Bente Frøge in 1997. The couple currently has two children.
Before her death, Lars' mother, Inger Høst, a civil service employee, confessed that Fritz Michael Hartmann (her mother's employer) was Lars’ biological father, not Ulf Trier, who he had considered his true father for years. Lars responded to this revelation by converting to Catholicism, a change he saw as a way to wipe out his relationship with his stepfather.
Making Super-8 films at age 11, Lars von Trier gained notice at the Munich Film Festival in the early 1980s with his award-winning student films “Nocturne” (1980) and “Image of Liberation/Befrielsesbilleder” (1982). After graduating from the Danish Film School, he directed and wrote his first feature film, “The Element of Crime/Forbrydelsens Element” (1984), a low-budget thriller/drama marking the first of his “Europe” trilogy. Starring Michael Elphick as a former policeman returning to northern Europe, the film won the Technical Grand Prize Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Von Trier, who also acted in the film as Schmuck of Ages, picked up a Best Director Fantasporto.
The second film “Epidemic” followed in 1987. Like its predecessor, it was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Von Trier broke into the small screen the next year with “Medea” (1988), which was handed the Jean d'Arcy prize in France. He closed out the decade by taking a small role as a cab driver in the Danish children's motion picture, “A World of Difference” (1989) for director Leif Magnusson.
1991 saw Von Trier return to the last of his European trilogy with “Europa,” a dark comic/drama set just after WWII in Germany. The film was a favorite on the festival circuit and brought the director his first real international attention. It successfully picked up the Jury Prize and a Best Artistic Contribution honor at the Cannes and a Fantasporto for Best Director.
After establishing a production company called “Zentropa Entertainment” in 1992 with producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen, Von Trier revisited television by directing “Lærerværelset” (1994), the six-part empirical talk-show merging fiction and realism. However, it was not until Von Trier co-directed “The Kingdom/Riget” (1994), an alarming miniseries set in a Copenhagen hospital for Danish TV, that he was put back in the limelight. The series, which was later transferred to 35mm film and earned a global release theatrically, was a hit in both film festival and on the TV circuits. It also served as a forerunner to Von Trier's new philosophy and spiritual interests for his subsequent movies in the 1990s. For his work in “The Kingdom,” Von Trier nabbed a Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for Best Director and a Golden Cable. The follow-up, “Riget II,” was later released in 1997 and won Von Trier two Fantasporto awards in the categories of Best Director and Best Screenplay.
Led by the confession of his mother about his true father, Von Trier rebelled against his past. In addition to converting to Catholicism, he left behind his perfectionist style shown in his “Europe” trilogy and started to emphasize on “honesty.” Along with Dane Thomas Vinterberg, he then co-founded the Dogme 95 movement.
Von Trier's next film, “Breaking the Waves,” which was released in 1996, was influenced by the Dogme techniques and emerged as a worldwide sensation. Featuring Emily Watson in her Academy Award-nominating performance as a naive young wife forced by her ailing husband to have a sexual relationship with another lover, “Breaking the Waves” won the director/writer critical acclaim and he was handed countless awards, including a César for Best Foreign Film, a Golden Satellite for Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language, the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes, a New York Film Critics Circle and a National Society of Film Critics for Best Director, as well as a Vancouver International Film Festival for Most Popular Film, to name a few. “The Idiots/Idioterne” (1998), the second effort made under Dogme 95, received the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1998 London Film Festival.
Entering the new millennium, Von Trier directed and penned the musical/drama “Dancer in the Dark” (2000), which starred the celebrated Icelandic musician Björk. Although the film received mixed reviews, he was able to take home the longed-for Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in addition to an Independent Spirit for Best Foreign Film and an Audience Award for Best Director. He also picked up an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Music, Original Song for co-writing the lyrics of “I've Seen It All.” The song also won a 2001 Golden Satellite for Best Original Song.
Von Trier resurfaced in 2004 with the first of his U.S. trio, “Dogville,” starring major American stars such as Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Chloe Sevigny, James Caan, Paul Bettany, Ben Gazzara and Patricia Clarkson. The story of a woman on the run from a team of gangsters, the drama/mystery also garnered the director with several awards, such as a David di Donatello for Best European Film, an Audience award at the Sofia International Film Festival for Best Film, and a Honorary Award at the Copenhagen International Film Festival.
The second part of the trilogy, “Manderlay” (2005), which starred Bryce Dallas Howard, Danny Glover and Willem Dafoe, was released a year later in 2005 and was honored with the 50th Anniversary Prize at the Valladolid International Film Festival. The same year, he also scripted the drama film “Dear Wendy,” directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring young actor Jamie Bell and Bill Pullman. He then directed and wrote the comedy “The Boss of It All /Direktøren for det hele” (2006) and helmed “Occupations,” the segment of “To Each His Cinema/Chacun son cinéma” (2007).
The 52-year-old filmmaker will return in 2009 with his third and last film in his “American” trilogy, “Wasington.”
Valladolid International Film Festival: 50th Anniversary Prize, “Manderlay,” 2005
Sofia International Film Festival: Audience Award, Best Film, “Dogville,” 2004
David di Donatello: Best European Film (Miglior Film dell'Unione Europea), “Dogville,” 2004
Copenhagen International Film Festival: Honorary Award, “Dogville,” 2003
European Film: Best Director, “Dogville,” 2003
Independent Spirit: Best Foreign Film, “Dancer in the Dark,” 2001
Golden Satellite: Best Original Song, “Dancer in the Dark,” 2001
Cannes Film Festival: Golden Palm, “Dancer in the Dark,” 2000
European Film: Audience Award, Best Director, “Dancer in the Dark,” 2000
Fantasporto: International Fantasy Film, Best Director, “Riget II,” 1999
Fantasporto: Best Screenplay, “Riget II,” 1999
London Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, “Idioterne,” 1998
Golden Satellite: Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language, “Breaking the Waves,” 1997
National Society of Film Critics: Best Director, “Breaking the Waves,” 1997
César: Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger), “Breaking the Waves,” 1997
Cannes Film Festival: Grand Prize of the Jury, “Breaking the Waves,” 1996
European Film: FIPRESCI Prize, “Breaking the Waves,” 1996
New York Film Critics Circle: Best Director, “Breaking the Waves,” 1996
Vancouver International Film Festival: Most Popular Film, “Breaking the Waves,” 1996
Nordisk Film: 1996
Golden Cable (Germany): Bronze Cable for Innovation, “Riget,” 1996
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival: Best Director, “Riget,” 1995
Fantasporto: International Fantasy Film, Best Director, “Europa,” 1992
Cannes Film Festival: Best Artistic Contribution, “Europa,” 1991
Cannes Film Festival: Jury Prize, “Europa,” 1991
Cannes Film Festival: Technical Grand Prize, “Forbrydelsens Element,” 1984