Lars Von Trier

By: Patrick Cates
April 30, 2013


Poor LARS VON TRIER (born 1956). That italicized albatross of lazy entertainment journalism, “enfant terrible”, dangles from his neck and encourages the casual onlooker to write the Danish filmmaker off as an attention-seeking dick. Yes, there are stories, usually from Cannes. He empathized with Hitler in the press conference for Melancholia (2011) and he is rumoured to have urinated on Harmony Korine on first meeting him. But Lars Von Trier is no coked-up Sheenian narcissist. He is a depressive, phobic, self-loathing genius whose antics are merely the by-product of the tortured mangle that is his mind. Ignore the by-product and look at the product: Breaking The Waves (1996), the beautiful and devastating account of a sexually naive girl’s psychic implosion; Dancer In The Dark (2000), a haunting musical charting the demise of a woman hanged for the mercy killing of a man who steals from her and who feels intolerably guilty about it; Antichrist (2009), a daring journey into the darkest, dankest caves of consciousness via the violent degradation of a marriage. The unrelenting despondency in these films rings so true to anyone who has experienced life through the blackened lens of depression. And yet, as in anhedonic life, there is occasional warmth in Von Trier’s work. In The Five Obstructions (2003), he tries to pull his idol and mentor, Jørgen Leth, out of a mental slump by challenging him to remake his influential short film, The Perfect Human, five times while obeying an increasingly severe list of restrictions. The result is a touching validation of the self-help dictum that aiding others with their suffering is often the best way of alleviating one’s own.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Jaroslav Hašek, Willie Nelson, Blind Gary Davis, Alice B. Toklas.

READ MORE about members of the Original Generation X (1954–1963).


HiLo Heroes, Movies