Tranceformer - A Portrait of Lars von Trier (1997) Movie Script

I'll gladly assert
that everything
said or written of me is a lie.
But a provocation's purpose
is to get people to think.
If you subject people
to a provocation
you allow them the possibility
of their own interpretation.
He is a, what can one say...
...a playful rascal.
Absolute opponent to all kinds
of intellectual authority.
Unfortunately, I have
a "troll shard" in my eye.
I don't know if you know
The Snow Queen by Han Andersen.
I remember there's a boy who
at some stage gets
a troll shard in his eye
and sees things as ugly.
I see you as fairly cross-eyed.
His name alone is
a pure provocation...
Von Trier! It's incredible
how many doors
have opened through it.
That's because my own life is
a fabrication, not so?
Shall we skip the niceties and
get on with the interview?
He's very bourgeois.
Wears slippers at home,
runs around the lawn,
cuts the hedge.
Nothing could be more dull.
There's nothing exotic about him.
About being "self-directed".
That means you direct yourself
differently in a certain way.
I don't do that.
You normally associate extremism
with grand gestures and so on.
But Lars is very controlled,
very amiable in his way.
That means that sometimes
you don't even notice
the missiles he fires.
And the whole thing blows up
without you really knowing
what happened.
Danish bastards!
Danish bastards!
But life is a circus,
for God's sake...
My mother gave me
a small-gauge camera.
Actually she had really
bought it for herself
but she thought
I should play with it.
I think this is my second film.
The first was more experimental.
The camera was more capable of
single frames and dissolves
and everything...It was fun and
everything had to be tested.
And this really arty film...
Later there are also examples of...
Well, double exposures
at any rate...
And even hand-held camera and...
subjective images.
It is actually largely a textbook
in different film styles.
I was about 10 or 12 years old.
I made him swim there.
I remember he got scolded
for being soaked.
He had his nice clothes on.
What's interesting
and what I later...
It's interesting to see
I realized how to use
interior film for exteriors.
It was one of the most important
color manipulations for 8 mm.
It means...There's interior film
used on a daylight scene.
There's a sequence shortly that's
shot outside on interior film.
It's in a second if I remember...
It makes him more acidic,
you could say...
Here's a tracking shot.
Taken from a bicycle.
My biggest dream at that time
was to build a camera crane.
I never did.
It was too difficult.
It had to be built of wood...
15 years later he has
the resources
and in The Element of Crime
he creates an unusually
expressive thriller.
He wins a prize in Cannes.
It's the first part of a trilogy
about a Europe in disintegration.
In these films,
Lars von Trier transforms reality
and evokes closed, hypnotic
worlds of rare suggestiveness.
The resources for Epidemic
are more limited
but the film imagination
is unbound.
Within the tightly composed
images of Europa,
chaos reigns which inexorably
condemns people,
both good and evil,
to ruination.
In 1968,
Trier plays the leading role
in a SwedishlDanish TV series,
Clandestine Summer.
He is 12 years old.
I'm no millionaire.
My mother will go mad
if I steal the marmalade.
-Buy some.
-I'm saving for a tape recorder.
-Whilst I starve to death?
-0kay, I'll fetch something, then.
His parents, Ulf and Inger Trier,
radical middle class academics
believe in an upbringing
free of rules and restraint
where Lars himself
can decide over his life.
That's to say,
Lars' reference milieu
was sort of culturally radical,
progressive, communist,
with a little Jewish, Copenhagen,
international character.
It was that which he primarily,
as I saw it anyway,
revolted against in his own
timid but radical,
in another sense of radical,
totally extreme manner.
No, I had a very,
very free upbringing.
And according to me,
it was too free
as it is such a cause
of anxieties.
What happens when you give
someone complete freedom, is...
The child has to be
its own authority.
When there's no one to say:
Do this or that,
go to the dentist, go to bed,
they have to be
their own authority.
And the difficulties that arise
simply going to bed
were incredibly traumatic for me.
It's still a common problem
for some.
It's a lot for a little kid
to decide for himself,
I missed the love an authority
that defines parameters can bring.
Because that is a form of love.
Yes, but school was pure hell for
me. It was a very strict school.
It coincided in that I'd always
been allowed to do what I wanted
and then I came to a school where
you primarily had to sit still.
Which I still think
is completely crazy.
I can't reconcile myself to it.
It's idiotic.
Why should you sit still
at your desk for eight years?
It's an entirely idiotic
principle, isn't it?
And I was badly treated,
I was bullied by the pupils
and I was scared to go out
at breaktime
as I was so badly treated.
I hated every hour because I was
forced to be inside. It was awful.
So eventually
I came to the conclusion
which was what I'd learnt
as a child, namely,
avoid what ails you.
That meant I left
and you couldn't really
as I was in junior school.
It's a lot for little kid
to decide for himself,
if he feels like
going to school or not.
So that's why he left when
he was still at school
and sat drinking white wine on
a wooden raft instead of studying.
Lars continues to make films.
He writes, directs
films, acts...
I don't believe
in the school system.
I believe in the workshop system.
and above all in experience,
which I gained
from the 8 mm films I made
and later the 16 mm films I made
when I studied film.
I borrowed equipment there
and sponged in various ways.
Yes, mostly I believe
in trying it yourself.
The Orchid Garden was his entry
ticket into film school
in Copenhagen.
But what has the film school
to offer
other than that Lars Trier
becomes Lars von Trier?
Primarily it meant that I became
like an enfant terrible.
That everything those idiots
taught me, I wasn't going to do.
It is their fault that things have
turned out the way they have.
We learnt not to do many things.
They were seen as improper.
We couldn't use flashbacks.
And we couldn't use voice-overs.
That was the most improper
thing imaginable.
There was a third thing...
If something took place in Vienna,
1934, our teacher wanted us...
Under no circumstances begin
with a caption which read
"Vienna, 1934",
he wanted to take a close-up
of a fly walking over some ink,
making smudges on a cheque
and on the top of it
was "Vienna, 1934".
Why waste people's time with
a fly wandering over a cheque
when you can do it very simply?
Also, I think all these narrative
technical tools,
such as voice-over and the others,
have an atmospheric value.
We met at film school.
For the first years, I saw him
as this long-haired character
who always hid behind his hair
and scolded the staff.
There was always a combative
relationship between him and the staff.
I had no dealings with him
until one day...I was cutting...
I had a cutting room
off the corridor
and he'd done something
on video.
He sat across the corridor and
he had this...little video film.
I remember it was...He asked me
if I'd come over and watch it.
I wanted to.
It was the first time we'd spoken.
I went and saw it and it was
the worst rubbish I'd ever seen.
I've never seen anything like it,
before or since. It was a story...
There were two doors.
Behind each door was a woman.
I was completely gob smacked.
I had to...
I lay on the floor and laughed
until the tears ran.
And Lars sat there:
"What is he up to?"
And I think he really
respected me for this...
It wasn't a film you could hate,
you could only laugh at it.
I want to say that both
collaborators I had in film school,
that is,
Tmas Gislason and Tom Elling,
I was at the school with them and
they are cameraman and editor
they are the collaborators that
have meant most to me.
There's no doubt.
Lars had made his own films
before film school.
So he was fascinated
with technology and the like.
I had a very naive attitude to...
I was so young,
I didn't understand a damn.
I came from the art world
and had references from
representational art.
Lars had...he knew all the film
classics, knew them by heart.
And Tmas,
he was the young one
with a really sharp
sense of humor.
He was totally in harmony
with his time.
We were three separate elements
who were bound to be combined.
I think that Tom is one of those
that has given a lot to Lars.
Tom Elling.
The whole look of
The Element of Crime,
the way it was.
There's a lot of Tom in that.
I think it's...the portrayal of
images in the subconscious
that we've, in one way or another,
come close to.
I don't think it's something
we were particularly aware of.
But it's clear
that evil is interesting.
And as Dante said when he wrote
The Divine Comedy,
it was enjoyable writing
But when he came to Paradise
it was pure agony.
He had no idea what to write.
But Purgatory was fun.
It's like that.
It's fascinating. How can you...
How can...
How could they imagine
exterminating the Jews as they did?
How could it be accepted
by a people
who basically knew about it?
How could it happen?
What sort of mechanisms
can get a people
to behave as they did?
It's all so fascinating.
It's the closest we have had
or the closest we have to true,
you could say evil, isn't it?
Genuine evil...
Answer my question.
Do you know this man?
Max Hartmann is my friend.
He fed me and gave me
a shelter.
Lars von Trier often appears
in his own films.
Here in Europa he's the Jew who,
through his statement,
frees a business magnate
and nazi collaborator
from all suspicion of dealing
with the Nazis.
The difference between what
you should be and what you are
is something that means
quite a lot to me.
That's why idealism, or idealists,
interests me as much as they do.
Epidemic is Lars von Trier's
second feature.
Von Trier and his co-writer
Niels Varsel work on a script
about a doctor in a world
ravaged by a deadly epidemic -
The plague.
But it's the idealist
who spreads the disease
on his curative odyssey.
The altruistic doctor
is portrayed by Lars von Trier.
My mother...her...
She's basically made
one foreign trip in her life.
That was to Yugoslavia.
During my childhood
we heard of its splendor.
Motley pigs ran around
the streets
and people lived in harmony.
She was a communist and had
realized the eastern bloc
was problematic.
But Yugoslavia was borderline.
She was shown around
on an official visit.
It was the ideal society
on this earth.
Totally idealistic...
And now she's dead,
God be praised.
Just look at the disintegration
in relation to her impression...
What l, at least at the beginning
of my career, played a lot with
were these people who're very
sure of what's right
and what action to take.
You can be sure that when
they've done the right thing,
it's gone wrong
and they also did it badly.
In reality, if you talk of a theme,
then perhaps it is...
At the moment I have loads of
different phobias of various types.
The instant I don't turn my
energies to the creative side
I turn it to thousands of
anxiety inducing things.
I find it difficult that, just
in order to exist, I'm forced to...
It puts a lot of artistic
practice into a certain perspective
if the whole thing doesn't
express an inner need which...
To communicate something.
it's an expression of survival.
He's afraid of one thing,
then another.
But the instant he sits
even at a mixing desk,
he becomes totally relaxed,
is calm.
And, I know when we...
I called him just recently,
this speaks of a side of him
we don't often think of,
the poet von Trier.
I called and said, "How are you?"
"Not so good..."
"What do you mean?"
"No, it's my cancer."
"But, you don't have cancer."
"No, but I believe..."
"But we all do.
I do every morning."
"Yes, but now I'm over it."
"I bought a kayak."
"A kayak, but it's cold, you can't"
"But as soon as I'm in it,
the anxiety goes.
"I have to keep my balance."
I said, "It's part of the secret
for you and me."
"0ur real kayak, that's
your film work and my acting."
"It's our kayak, it's how
we keep balanced."
A set always has a reverse side.
There's always loads of tape
and it's put together
with old nails.
But it looks like gold
from the front.
And in some way,
it's the same with actors.
They look great when they're
walking around, but they all have..
...these people behind the actors.
They're put together with tape.
It's a...Making film is really
maintaining a mask.
Consequently, film is suddenly
a startlingly superficial product.
And perhaps it's what it is
in reality.
A very superficial product.
It's no worse off for that.
You can perhaps use this
to describe something
which expresses sincerity.
What did you see it on.
Breaking the waves
was filmed
in one of the largest studios
in Copenhagen.
But in this cavernous studio,
Lars von Trier creates a set
that is so cramped
the crew can hardly move.
The exterior frame stands
for reality,
the film and technique
for illusion.
It really began a few years ago
when Lars called and asked if I
wanted to help on a commercial
for a French insurance company.
There were lots of actors in it.
At that time Lars didn't have
a lot of experience with actors
and there were a lot
on the project.
So I said I'd like to do it.
I wanted to help him to...
We had a good collaboration.
Even if we're very different,
we work quite well together.
He's afraid of crowds,
of space.
He's afraid of not getting out.
0f being in a car
with lots of people.
So it's hard for him
to be a director.
He has to find someone
to play with
who understands the whole thing
and still wants to do it.
And Lars has the weakness,
if you call it that, of strength,
to write all his phobias
into his scripts.
So if there's a scene on a boat
or an oil-rig
or an airplane or something,
it's in his script.
But he'd never put a foot there.
In a film like Breaking,
shot hand-held,
the monitor is an important
piece of equipment.
Because I can't be
on location at the shoot
as the camera basically pans
all the way around
and I have no impression of what
ends up on celluloid otherwise.
So we've used it
for the latest films,
I've had a lot of use for it.
What is obviously difficult is from
what you've seen, communicating
what your collaborators
should do the next time.
So it's difficult, and sometimes
I've worked from a great distance
and been far away.
And that's both good and bad.
In the old days they said an
editor wasn't allowed on a shoot
because he should be shielded
from problems
that arise in production.
Similarly, there's an advantage to
a director not being on location.
He can hear from Morten Arnfred's
exhausted voice
that it's hard there.
It's blowing a lot, it's raining
a lot, it's cold, and so on...
When I get small, tired comments,
I know very well
it's windy and cold.
But the advantage of not being
there is you get
an objective idea
of what ends up on celluloid.
The line was right on the
door slam, wasn't it?
No, you've gotten up
to have breakfast.
And then you've gone back
to read.
He's found out about it.
You're not fully dressed...
-This is before the clothes from...
-Good. Great!
Great. Yes...
And the storm
is howling outside.
He's a man who...
there's an old saying:
"A man is a man, and a word
is a word." And his Ioyalty
is also of a Middle Ages order.
He's a knight. A little knight.
Well, I met Peter...
It must be about ten years ago,
on a commercial.
I'd gone through everyone
and asked myself
if there was a producer for me.
My last chance was going to
someone newly from film school.
He turned out to be very
interested. He'd produced a few...
...very particular productions
which resulted
in an enormous overdraft.
He'd gone bankrupt
and Lord knows what...
So it was like two "Lazarillo's"
getting together.
Peter knows if he asks me to do
a thing one way,
I'll do the opposite.
He's learnt to control me.
He doesn't lie either.
He's never lied or anything...
I lie 400 times a day.
It's intense to meet
a person who doesn't lie.
But the betrayal
that is the worst of all
is if for some reason, you're
forced to betray your ideals.
That's the worst betrayal.
It's bad enough betraying others.
But betraying your ideals for some
reason because the everyday... collides with these ideals...
Ideals are what you base
your whole life on.
It is ideals...
It is a pure way to live
your life.
Everything is based on it, and
if you abandon that for something,
so that you can live up to
your ideals, it's a betrayal...
...that is fatal.
I understand that a person can
have psychological problems.
It...I don't understand it
myself, but...
0n the other hand, we're so
different in other areas
that I presume in this area
there are considerable differences.
I don't suffer from any
psychological problems myself...
The anxiety I have, it...
It expresses in a self-hate
of extraordinary proportions.
It's got something to do
with my self-discipline as well...
I mean, it must seem crazy
that I can lead a film team.
0r the Russian army in Poland...
But I experience no anxiety.
As long as I climb up,
I'm quite small,
I'll climb up and shout.
And I'm certain the world
will fit in with me.
But I can't control myself.
That gives me anxiety, but
primarily it gives me self-Ioathing
to be dictated to by forces
within me that I can't control.
It's very...What I've come
to now, is a...
Perhaps it sounds totally banal,
but it's so apparent.
But l, relatively unused to
film festivals and such like,
was with him in Cannes,
and for me it was...
I thought it was fun, I also
thought it was silly,
like everyone else.
I had a new tuxedo and was
standing with my wife waiting
in this large hotel lobby
for Lars to arrive.
Limousines, crowds of beautifully
dressed people and elegant women.
The orchestra's playing
and finally in a limousine,
down the stairs,
Lars' wife arrives.
She's a little sweaty,
a little bothered,
she hasn't had time to make
herself up. She's nervous.
"He's coming soon." And so,
when she's done, Lars arrives,
so alone down the stairs,
barely greets me
and I'm to accompany him.
I walk after him and ask his wife,
"What's the matter with him?"
"Can't you see?" He's walking
some meters ahead of me. "No..."
"He's wearing Dreyer's tuxedo
from 1928!"
So he's been at an auction
some time, I don't know when
and bought this tuxedo from 1928
and decided to wear it at Cannes.
Then the whole thing becomes...
so moving and poignant.
She should be completely
fed up here. Not so?
-Should she shout at them?
-No, no...
No, we haven't got to that stage.
She's just tired of it all here.
Yes, just a little...despondent.
He's become so good with the
actors. It has occurred to me...
I've asked:
"What am I doing here?"
because Lars is so good.
Then I've concentrated more
on orchestrating other things
and taken care of
this fairly large production.
If you saw the film on screen,
you'd think it was made
by a small crew because
it has a documentary feel.
But this film's special aesthetic
needs, as you can see,
a large crew.
Before I read the script
and I knew it was him who'd
do it, I was delighted.
But in the hands of a normal
director, it wouldn't have worked.
Because...there's such a
spiraling melodrama to this film,
you need to create your own world
and lift it to a sufficiently...
...juicy level where the script
becomes believable.
I think it's hard
to understand women.
I have difficulty...Yesterday, I
was in the canoe with my children.
And one of these swans came that
wanted to attack all the time.
It was totally impossible to
predict when or why
it was going to do it
and when it became furious
and you went towards it,
it sometimes
just went off to one side...
Swans and women.
They are difficult, I think.
Can't I just act for my sake
and you can cut it out later?
No. No acting.
We talked about this very
early on. You promised me.
Not to act, yes...
But can't l, can't I act
before you roll the camera?
Yes, but I think
we have enough of that already...
I realize that it was cold, rainy
and it was a boring place.
They often are.
Let's go for a take.
Can we tilt up the pipe?
We've seen the water
cascades down there.
Can't we tilt up and see the way
it's swinging back and forth?
What do you mean
can't we look higher up?
We'd have to dig a whole camera
crew out of the mud.
I've more or less spent my life
in the theater.
And as a sixty year old,
I meet a young...
boy from Copenhagen who gets
interested in my malevolent look
and wants to work with me.
And, attracted by the exoticism
in what he conveyed of my
malevolence, I go down, we met.
And I think that
human contact arose.
Get away, damn it!
The water
has undermined everything.
Destructiveness is very,
very important.
Very important. It depends
what you want to destroy.
...there should also be
something you create.
You can compare it to an
ant's nest.
When you poke a stick in it.
It's vital sometimes...
Because then thousands of ants
come and rebuild it exactly alike.
When we're safe,
we live in security.
-Let me go, damnit, let me go!
-As soon as I have a reason
as to how I'm in the archive again
with another Danish idiot.
It's good
you've found one another.
We've written a part of The
Kingdom here, and then we've...
We've made little outlines here
on the wall, as you see.
I don't know why it doesn't go
over the door here.
I think the door's been changed
as large bits of part six
are missing.
So if people have problems
following part six,
it's because of that.
Sure, but here, about two thirds
into the film. About here.
-We should have some drama here.
If you'd like to write
"drama" there...
Because at that point, people
will start getting bored.
They'll be tired of it before,
but at that point
they'll want to leave.
The liberty of being a director
is that you have power over
the little universe you create,
and it's fairly peaceful.
It's have some power
over your collaborators
but that's also bullshit because
they want to be there.
You have no real power over
others but you do over the bit
that's the creation you're
engaged in, that you're doing.
And that is a...
It'd be good if a person's
power was never greater.
It's a peaceful power.
But I often think that...
that many of my films come about
by giving myself a task
which could be...
"Let's do something funny,
let's do something sad
"or let's do something
in another way."
I'm forced to ask myself
what I'd think was funny
or what I'd think was sad
or caused anxiety.
The things I do that seem gruesome
are things that would scare me.
He's decided on an interpretation
of the world as hell.
But there are so many gray areas,
where you can see hell...
If I said something negative
and it pains me to say this...
...a little categorical and
inexperienced in life.
It's spooky.
Yes, it is. It is spooky.
I had a supernatural encounter
as a child when I saw a UF0.
That was...
We were on the motorway,
I must have been very small
and I lay under the rear window.
We had an old Saab at that time.
So I lay under the rear window
and looked at the lamps
as they passed.
We left the motorway
and I saw a big skate
through one side
of the window.
Do you know what a skate is?
It's a fish that looks
a bit like a carpet
with a kind of tail.
It was flying through the sky.
It was nice.
Did anyone in the car see it?
So it could be a complete lie!