Lars von Trier • Director
“I’ve never killed anyone myself… If I do, it will probably be a journalist”
by Jan Lumholdt
- CANNES 2018: Lars von Trier is back in town, out of competition with The House That Jack Built, feeling relaxed and, almost willingly, talking to the press
Seven years have passed since that fateful Melancholia [+see also:
interview: Lars von Trier
film profile] press conference in 2011 that went from cheerful banter about the end of the world to sympathising a little with Hitler. It resulted in media turmoil and the official banning of Lars von Trier, pronounced persona non grata at the Cannes Film Festival. The bad boy is now back in town, ban lifted, and again causing at least some amount of Cannes discomfort with his serial-killer study The House That Jack Built [+see also:
interview: Lars von Trier
film profile], screening out of competition, and starring Matt Dillon and an ill-fated troupe of mainly female victims.
Cineuropa: The immediate reactions to The House That Jack Built were reported simultaneously as the gala screening took place on Monday evening. Walkouts and disgust were some sentiments aired, as well as several loud groans.
Lars von Trier: Which made me very relaxed. It’s quite important not to be loved by everybody, because then you’ve failed. I’m not sure if they hated it enough, though. If it gets too popular, I’ll have a problem. But the reception seemed just about right, I think. In any case, this one was a pleasure to write. I don’t know too much about serial killers, but I do know a bit about psychopaths. And I’ve never killed anyone myself… If I do, it will probably be a journalist.
At least you’re willing to talk to the press again…
Do I have a choice?
You have depicted a number of good women in your films through the years. This time we get an evil man. Why this change?
It was a task I gave myself, which was very pleasurable and possibly also a little childish, especially when I realised that all the women seemed extremely stupid. It’s also refreshing with a main character that can do pretty much anything when it comes to terrible acts and getting away with it. I revisited some very good Patricia Highsmith literature for the right inspiration.
How does it feel to return to Cannes again, this time “back from the cold”, so to speak?
Good; I feel welcome. The reception when I entered the cinema yesterday was very warm. It’s also a bit nice being out of competition. They made it very clear that I would not be in competition this time around, as a little piece of remaining punishment for me. Thierry Frémaux has been working hard for me – for some reason, it was difficult to remove the persona non grata thing, very difficult. Anyway, it’s kind of stupid to compete in film… And I must be the worst competitor in the world, because I’ve been to Cannes 12 times and picked up about four or five prizes. Anyone else would pick up their five awards and then stop, but I’ve been back again and again, for nothing. Since I always have to stay for the duration because I drive all the way from Denmark, it’s just humiliating to be told on the last day that there is nothing to pick up.
How has this seven-year period changed you, do you think?
I think I’m more humble these days. I’ve been through quite a big programme in order to deal with my alcohol problem, where you learn how to see things more “carpe diem”, to seize the moment. But here at Cannes, it’s impossible not to drink, so I’m taking a little holiday from the programme at the moment. I don’t take Antabus, because if I get a really big anxiety attack, the only thing that works is alcohol.
What are your future plans, as far as films and filming are concerned?
I have an idea for a series of 36 ten-minute films that will be called Etudes. It’s based on French film professor Georges Polti’s list of 36 dramatic situations. The films will be shot in different languages. I hope that shooting will become more pleasant… When I work, I get less scared.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.