“A very dark dream about guilt and sexuality”
by Fabien Lemercier
- Cannes 2009 Lars von Trier • Director “A very dark dream about guilt and sexuality”
Flanked by Charlotte Gainsbourg, Willem Dafoe and producer Meta Louise Foldager, Danish director Lars von Trier fulfilled a duty he is none too keen on, as he attended the press conference following the tumultuous competition screening of his latest work, Antichrist [+see also:
interview: Cannes 2009 Lars von Trier
film profile], at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. Below are some chosen excerpts from the often charged exchanges in which Lars von Trier replied with his usual irony, to avoid revealing his secrets.
Why did you choose to make such a shocking film?
Lars von Trier: I didn’t make this little film, which I like very much, for a given audience, but for myself. I don’t have to justify myself, nor apologise. God alone dictates my choices in a way, even though I don’t know if they’re good ones. But I’m the best director in the world. Lots of other filmmakers think this too, but don’t say so. As for me, I feel this deeply, even if it may not be true. To come back to the film, I was suffering from a bout of depression and decided to make it as a form of therapy.
What message, if any, did you want to convey with this very brutal film? And what about the very black humour?
I like this type of film. Some of my previous films were very clear and followed a rational logic. This one is conceived more as a dream. As for the humour, it stems from the same source as tragedy.
You direct Charlotte Gainsbourg in some very radical scenes. Was it easy to convince her?
Charlotte went too far, but I couldn’t stop her [laughs]. I’m pleased that I wasn’t holding the camera this time. I wasn’t in the right state of mind for that and I tried to stay very close to the actors and establish close communication. As for the female circumcision scene, it would have been wrong not to include it, for the film is a very dark dream about guilt and sexuality. I think there’s a sort of honesty in the basic act of shooting a film, even though I too have made untruthful films, like those with sets in the form of marks on the ground.
What is your opinion on women, who are very harshly depicted in the film?
I identify a great deal with Strindberg, who actually adored women and studied the relationship between them and men in a way that was both serious and funny.
Why did you dedicate Antichrist to Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky?
In my eyes, he’s a true god. When I saw his films for the first time, it was pure ecstasy. You could describe my relationship with him as almost religious. He belongs to the generation which preceded my own and I feel a strong connection with him, as I do with Bergman. And if you dedicate a film to a director, nobody will accuse you of having stolen his ideas: it’s a very practical solution.
Antichrist has sparked controversy and hostility in some people. Do you consider yourself as a director ahead of his time or is it a strategy?
I don’t think about the audience when I’m making a film. As for the controversy, provoking a reaction is a good start. At least you feel something on viewing the film.