Tranceformer - A Portrait of Lars von Trier

Synopsis: A portrait of Denmark's most acclaimed and controversial director, Lars von Trier. A meeting with von Trier on a private level as well as with his film universe. Filmmaker Stig Björkman follow von Trier during a period of more than two years, meet him at work, at home and at leisure.
52 min

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

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Stig Björkman

Stig Björkman (born 2 October 1938) is a Swedish writer and film critic. He has also directed fifteen films since 1964. His 1972 film Georgia, Georgia was entered into the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival. His 1975 film The White Wall was entered into the 9th Moscow International Film Festival. His 2015 documentary Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words was screened in the Cannes Classics section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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