Coverage by Nobuhiro Hosoki
Press Conference with Director Lars von Trier
(Q): At your press conference in Cannes, someone kicked things off by asking you to justify why you made this movie. I’m not going to ask you to do that, but I was hoping you could provide a little bit of context in terms of the making of the film. It’s been fairly well documented that you were suffering a serious depression when you made “Antichrist” and I was hoping you could talk a little bit about how it affected your process in terms of writing and shooting the film. How was it different this time and how do you think that affected the end result?
(Lars von Trier): It was different in the way that I was normally excited. Normally I’m extremely happy about what I’m doing and my own abilities and talent. But I felt almost maybe human, so I was not excited. But what it has done for the film, I tried to bring myself out of the depression but it hasn’t really worked. But I’m very happy to see all you people in New York; if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. [laughter]
(Q): The first question is, where did you get the idea for the film? We’ll do them one at a time.
(Lars von Trier): I don’t really know where it came from. The idea was to make a horror film, which I know it was not really. I think I started with that. Normally, I know what to say, but I can’t tell you.
(Q): Okay, I think the second question was, as a director often called a provocateur, are you upset if people don’t walk out of your films? Which I think was the case today; I did not notice anyone walk out.
(Lars von Trier): If there are not any walk-outs then I have failed. [laughter]
(Q): Okay and the third question was, what about Dafoe?
(Lars von Trier): Dafoe was a very very good friend. I was trying to cast this film and he sent me an email and said if I have anything for him, and I said, “Yes, thank god you suddenly showed up.” I’d worked with him before, and working with him as a director and a good friend, so that was a miracle.
(Q): This seems very much the most cinematic movie made in a long time. I was wondering if that was intentional? If you were trying to move away from the dogma and away from the staging?
(Lars von Trier) : I feel the best when I do something that does not look too much like. And I think that this lack of the fascination, I cannot work by way back. I must say, I’m not completely happy with the film. I would have wanted more of a dogma link to the documentary past.
(Q) : Did you say that you wanted parts of the film to be more dogma-like in their aesthetic? And if so, which parts are you referring to?
(Lars von Trier) : There was meant to be a bigger difference between normal action scenes and the more stylized stuff. There was to be a big difference between the fixed-camera and then the handheld stuff.
(Q):The sound design of “Antichrist” reminded me a lot of David Lynch’s films, and also the scene where she asks him to whip her reminded me a good deal of the scene from “Blue Velvet”, and I wonder if you took any inspiration from David Lynch?
(Lars von Trier) : I was very very taken by “Twin Peaks”, I thought that was a fantastic piece of whatever it was. [laughter] The feature films; “Mulholland Drive” I was very happy with, but the other feature films I haven’t seen. I’m a big fan so I think I have similar things. Maybe Lynch and I share a fetish.
(Q) : The film is also set in the Pacific Northwest, like “Twin Peaks”.
(Lars von Trier) : That is a very naïve idea we have when we shoot in Europe that it can only look like the state of Washington. It’s only because we seem to have a common interest to replicate that. And when we did “Dancer in the Dark” it was done in a place that had a double gallery.
(Q) : I just wonder if you could expand a little bit about the biblical connections in the film. Obviously, you reference Satan, and Antichrist, and Eden.
(Lars von Trier) : If the film has anything to do, and I think it has to do with that there is no god, that is how I see it. I think they come from, you have a conscience toward Eden, I know, and I’m sorry for that. Normally I would have gone through this quicker, taken all that shit, but I didn’t this time. I was relatively uncritical of the script, that means that all these things stayed. I think the idea was that it came from her research. But I’m sorry about the Eden stuff, it came up and I just let it be. And then it’s very easy since it’s a man and a woman and all that. I have not worked in a way where I was thinking Eden; the reason why it’s called Eden, it was a place that was supposed to be very romantic.
(Q) : The question is that a lot of the character that she interprets felt the guilt because she’s a woman of pleasure, a real mother. She saw the child falling but she didn’t do anything because the pleasure prevailed. Is that correct, the way you see her?
(Lars von Trier) : You say that she’s not really a mother; then you should have seen my mother. [laughter] This is nothing compared to what I’ve been through. I don’t know. I think she’s struggling with some guilt from the sexual pleasure, but I believe that from society there has always been a lot of guilt from these things. Yeah, I don’t know if she saw him falling. Somehow I felt very much like her when I wrote it. She’s struggling with jealousy but she has a lot of pressure.
(Q) : Two brief things. One, I think that the film is an exceptional piece of work. I just wonder if it was intended for us to have much sympathy for Willem Dafoe’s character? Because as soon as he changes his wife’s medication I was just like, anything bad that happens to him he deserves at this point. My other question is, will w ever see part three of the USA Trilogy?
(Lars von Trier): One of the ways you can write is that you kind of take your own personality, or your beliefs about your own personality on the people in the film, on the characters. And yes, I understand him. We had some lines in the film where he acts more sympathetically, and then he became extremely unsympathetic, and we had to cut it out otherwise it would have been a very one-sided film. So he ends up with a lot of violence and a lot of stupidity. And about the American Trilogy; that’s the problem about trilogies, is there has to be three of them [laughter]. I do not have the exact idea; when it comes I will make the film, if it is possible.
(Q): I thought the film definitely was a horror film, and definitely had lots of horror influences. Did you have clearly in your mind certain antecedents that were there in the process that influenced you?
(Lars von Trier) : At a certain point in my confusion I started seeing Japanese horror films, and I liked them very much. But maybe I liked them not so much for the horror, but I thought cultural differences, it’s interesting to see images that are definitely not form the west. I like them very much. Yes, I’m influenced of course by “The Shining”, also, “Rosemary’s Baby”, absolutely, and “Carrie” was for me a very good film when I saw it.
(Q) : I’m curious about how you see yourself as a creator of a piece. You forecast a great deal in this film; you have water drops and then you have acorn. There are lots of ways in which you give the audience clues that are very symbolic in their way, but they’re also clues as to what’s going to happen. And we sit here, and we kind of piece them together, and you let us feel smart about that. So I’m wondering whether you do this consciously, and when you are actually in the process of creating a script and/or editing the film, you put yourself, in addition to the role of being creator, in the role of being the audience to your own work.
(Lars von Trier): I believe that I am the audience, but I am, as myself, a very stupid audience. I went to university to study film and we did a lot of new things, but that is definitely not the way I work. It comes from other sources, the cinematic impact, or poetry, or just some strange kind of logic that is maybe only in my head. I do not think of the connections between water drops and acorns when I write it.
(Q) : I wonder, at what point did you decide to dedicate the film to [whoever it’s dedicated to], and why?
(Lars von Trier): I must say, [that guy] has been very important to me. I discovered him while I was in film school. I have stolen so much from him over the years that in order not to be arrested I dedicated it to him. [laughter] I should have done it a long time ago, and it’s sincerely meant; I’m a very big fan.
(Q) : Are there specific coping mechanisms that society uses? And something about Nietzsche. Are there specific coping mechanisms that society uses that you would have liked to see stripped away for your audiences?
(Lars von Trier): I don’t think I have an agenda like that. I do films very much for my own sake, and I don’t have any idea to reflect on society.
(Q): Something about Nietzsche.
(Lars von Trier): I don’t know enough about Nietzsche. I had this Antichrist book lying on my table for 40 years and I hadn’t opened it yet, but the title I liked. I don’t want to say anything about Nietzsche.
(Q): You had some very interesting researchers listed in the credits, including a researcher on misogyny. In the writing or making of the film did you learn something about misogyny in yourself or in your work or how it was depicted in the film?
(Lars von Trier) : Well it has mostly to do with the things that the female character in the film was working with. Some of the quotations. She did a very good job; I didn’t do very much. I don’t know if I learned anything about if I hated women more. I like to be with women. I don’t think the film really has so much to do with, it could have been the other way around. I of course believe that women are as bad as men.
(Q): What do you think are the basic elements that turn a horror film into a classic?
(Lars von Trier) : I think that “Psycho” is a classic not because it was scary, though I thought I was quite scary. But I don’t think it’s the scary things that I remember, I remember style. The good things about horror films is they give you room for a lot of things; room for strange pictures or whatever. And I didn’t find “The Shining” very scary. As with all other films, it has to do with the personality that you feel in the film.