Lars von Trier is probably one of the most innovative and distinctive film makers to emerge from Denmark since Carl Theodor Dreyer. The Copenhagen native, studied film at the Danish Film School and garnered international accolades with his first feature, a highly stylized piece with an idiosyncratic color scheme. He later went on to direct slew of ground-breaking and award winning films. Each is an exquisitely thought out piece of work, with interesting shots and equally intriguing plotlines. You are sure to catch von Trier’s films via cable or satellite TV. HD DVDs of his works are also available for aficionados.
Europa is von Trier’s third feature film. Released in 1991, the movie tells the tale of a young American who endeavors to ‘show some kindness’ to the German people following the aftermath of World War II. During his travels, he falls in love and becomes embroiled in a Nazi conspiracy. The film is shot in black and white with occasional incursions of color. Images are layered on top of each other for an eerie, surrealist effect. The visual imagery makes this a great watch on your HD TV.
Breaking the Waves
This 1996 film starring Emily Watson is part one of a what von Trier dubbed his Golden Heart trilogy. Set in the Scottish highlands in the 1970′s, the film follows the life a young childlike woman, Bess McNeill and her husband, Jan an oil rig worker. Jan is later injured, prompting the marriage to take a somewhat unusual turn. This film won the Grand Prix at Cannes along with three awards at the 1996 European Film Awards. Many critics have featured it on their top film lists of the decade. You can usually catch the movie on independent cinema movies via your satellite TV subscription.
Dancer in the Dark
This movie tells the tale of a young Czech factory worker who is going blind. The lead, Selma, is played by the Icelandic songstress Bjork who also composed the soundtrack for the album and performed a number of the songs. Selma lives a poor life, but she has been saving money for her son to prevent him from suffering her fate. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse, and Selma ends up going to jail for murder. Other stars include Peter Stormare, Catherine Deneuve and David Morse. The movie was filmed on the low-end with a hand held digital camera, giving it a documentary style appearance. This is the last in the Golden Heart trilogy. It’s definitely not for your hardcore sports fan, or for those who like princesses and happy endings. Still, it is quite stirring.
This 2003 film starred Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Chloe Sevigny, and Stellan Skarsgard. The setup is akin to theatre, with a minimalistic set and no walls. Dogville is a parable which tells the story of Grace Mulligan, played by Kidman, who is fleeing from the mob and takes refuge in the simple town of Dogville. Her plight is worsened when she is humiliated by the small town’s citizens. Some have seen this as a straight-up criticism of America, while others feel that von Trier is invoking a more general sentiment.
Manderlay is the sequel to Dogville, with Bryce Dallas Howard replacing Nicole Kidman as Grace Mullington. The staging is similar to that of Dogville and all the action is confined to one plantation.