Movie Review: Tranceformer - A Portrait of Lars von Trier

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Tranceformer is the title of a 1997 documentary by Stig Björkman a respected journalist, and director in Sweden from Sweden, who provides an in-depth look at the Danish director Lars Von Trier.

Lars begins the documentary by pointing out that 'everything that is written about me is a lie'. He agreed to allow Björkman follow him two years. Long term friend and producer of his film Peter Aelbaek Jensen, says that Lars von Trier never lies.

We learn that the Danish director added 'von' to his name as did Erich von Stroheim. Lars drives to Cannes in a camper and parks outside 5 star hotels when his films are selected for the official competition. He has won the Golden Palm twice and wore the tuxedo of silent film director Carl Dreyer to one of the premieres.

Swedish actor Ernst-Hugo Jaeregard who starred in Von Trier's Zentropa, says that Lars has to be involved in a film project or his phobias develop. In between projects, he once called Jaeregard to report he bought a kayak to calm himself down. Those phobias are fear of underground structures, flying, illness, and hospitals. Perhaps partly as a cure he made Epidemic (1987), illustrating those very same phobias a film in which there is some unknown disease that spreads among the populace and to the scriptwriter and director of the film. As if to purge himself Von Trier of course acted, wrote and directed the film. He rides in a helicopter - a safer form of travel in a flying machine also used in Breaking the Waves. Prior to making the film, he converted from Judaism to Catholicism.

We learn from Lars upbringing that his parents were members of the Danish Communist Party and he received a very permissive upbringing not knowing any limits. He played with his mothers super 8 camera, and his favorite story as a child was 'Golden Heart', a story about a young girl who enters the forest, gives away all her belongings and later comes out naked. Though the film impressed Von Trier, his father thought it was rubbish.

Critics and spectators alike generally agree that Lars treatment of women is some of his films is brutal At the press conference at Cannes last May, Von Trier admitted that torturing men was not as fun as women. At film school he disobeyed all the teachers and did everything they believed were bad film techniques.

Editor and Lars' fellow film school student Tomas Gislason, describes a early student film contained on the DVD of the: a stereotypical snickering dirty old man with a raincoat who enters a room where a stereotypical blonde young woman waits for him with longing on a bed.

From the world of men and ideas he holds a strong admiration such as Bertold Brecht and since Dancer in the Dark has set his films in a mythical USA.

Together with Danish colleagues, he developed the Dogme method to allow European films to compete with Hollywood in a low budget approach of realism. The title Tranceformer not only applies to the different transformations Lars Von Trier has undergone but his ability to shift his material in a variety of arenas in Björkman's revealing documentary.

For Movie Magazine This is Moira Sullivan Stockholm SWEDEN

More Information:
Tranceformer - A Portrait of Lars von Trier
Denmark/Sweden - 1997