August 11, 2009
Beware: Spoilers Abound
I’m not sure how useful it is to try to determine the ‘point’ of every film, assuming films have a point at all. The purpose of most films is, on the most basic level at least, to entertain. It does not follow that every film’s purpose is to entertain, of course, but one would hope those films have a point to make by not being entertaining. For a certain type of filmgoer, attempting to decipher said ‘point’ can often be as entertaining as the film isn’t, even if the process ends in tears and confusion. Lars von Trier is a director whose name is well known amongst those types of filmgoers, and with good reason. His films almost always garner controversy, whether it is due to the perceived politics on show or the acts he’s chosen to depict on screen. As a teenager I was a fan of Breaking the Waves, and the Dogme 95 movement he started in the years after was a rich and exciting concept (filming techniques designed to bring out authenticity). By Dancer in the Dark, however, I was beginning to question not only the man but also the reverence I held for his previous work. His two films about America, Dogville and Manderlay solidified my dislike for Von Trier. Lifting the set design (or lack thereof) of the play Our Town to create savage fables about the country’s attitude towards foreigners and minorities respectively, he made two horribly indulgent polemics that shed absolutely no light on the issues he chose to explore, instead electing to shock us into his way of thinking with gang-rapes and slavery. There were complexities there, and interesting ideas, but they were always undone by both his heavy-handed approach and his overridingly simplistic viewpoint.