Famously provocative film director Lars von Trier spoke to reporters today via Skype hook-up after a screening of his latest provocation, Antichrist, which will be playing at the New York Film Festival. (Famously, von Trier refuses to visit America.) The movie centers around two parents, played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who make their way uneasily through the mourning process after their son leaps from a window to his death—while the inattentive couple was making love! We’ll have more to say about the film—and the rest of the NYFF-in the coming days, but for now we bring you choice [ahem] snippets from that press conference.
Von Trier got a hostile, to put it politely, response from critics when the punishing film screened at Cannes; New York audiences, however, seemed generally more appreciative, and perhaps as a result the director was funny, charming and self-deprecating—rather than aloof and megalomaniacal.
Dennis Lim, part of the festival selection committee, and a noted New York film writer, moderated the discussion, and began with a question about how von Trier’s much publicized depression before and during the making of the film affected his process. Von Trier said he was still feeling depressed but “I’m happy to see all you people in New York—if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
The rest of the questions came from the audience. (In the following, the questions are paraphrased; the quoted answers are usually only parts of the director’s responses, and as close as possible to verbatim but probably inexact as I was taking notes by hand.)
Q: As a provocateur, if no one walks out, have you not succeeded?
A: “There were no walkouts? Then I have failed.” [Lim remarked that he thought no one walked out, though the audience quickly insisted that at least a few had]
Q: The film seems very David Lynchian. Is he a conscious influence?
A: Von Trier said he liked Mulholland Dr. but admitted he hasn’t seen any of Lynch’s other features. Except: “I’m a Twin Peaks fan. A very big fan.” [someone suggested that at one point, when Gainsbourg asks Dafoe to hit her during sex, it evoked a moment in Blue Velvet] “Maybe Lynch and I share a fetish.”
Q: Antichrist is set in the Pacific Northwest, like Twin Peaks.
A: “When we shoot in Europe, it can only look like the state of Washington.”
Q: Please explain the Biblical references.
A: “[The cabin where Gainsbourg and Dafoe spend much of the movie] is called ‘Eden,’ I know. I’m sorry for that.” Usually, he goes through the script and takes out all that “shit,” but this time he was very uncritical.
Q: Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character’s conflict seems to be that she’s a woman of pleasure and not a mother. Would you agree?
A: “You say she’s not really a mother? You should have seen my mother. This is nothing compared to that.”
Q: Will you ever make part 3 of the “American Trilogy”? (Dogville, Manderlay)
A: “That’s the problem about trilogies-that there has to be three of them.” He added that if he writes a script, he will make the movie if he can.
Q: Why is the movie dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky?
A: He said Tarkovsky has been a huge influence since he was a young man. “When I saw The Mirror, it took me days to get over…I have stolen so much from Tarkovsky over the years; in order not to get arrested, I had to dedicate the film to him. I should have done it a long time ago.”