Any discussion of Lars von Trier must inevitably include the word “provocateur”, a term that both implies someone who leans on shock value to prop up their work and begrudgingly acknowledges that there’s something worth exploring there anyway. When it comes to the Danish filmmaker’s bitter misanthropy and baroque formalism, the mood of each individual release seems very much influenced by what’s going on inside von Trier’s head at that time. When he’s in a good place mentally, he’s an impish, self-deprecating troll. When he’s depressed, he’s a malevolent, misogynistic one.
But whether he’s attempting to destroy the foundations of cinema—as he did as part of the Dogme 95 collective—or building bombastic castles around his own hateful little thoughts, the ultimate target of the filmmaker’s ire is himself. No one hates Lars von Trier and his self-indulgent artistic tendencies more than Lars von Trier does—a bleak foundation for a nearly 40-year career, but one that continues to pay divisive dividends. We wouldn’t have Ari Aster without him.
Responses to von Trier’s body of feature work—which is presented nearly in its entirety in British label Curzon’s new Bosch-influenced brick of a boxed set—obviously vary wildly on . The highest rated of his films among members, Dancer in the Dark, is not included in the set, presumably due to rights issues. Breaking the Waves (pictured above), which Mia says is “truly abysmal. Loathsome. I despised it”, is in there, however. So is Antichrist, which prompted K(art)sten to simply write, “I hate this man”. Dogville—the one that made Lucy declare von Trier her archnemesis in a four-and-a-half-star review, an apt distillation of how fans feel about him—is presented in a 3K restoration, one of six titles in the set to get the 3 or 4K treatment. The Idiots, an early experiment in digital video produced under a strict set of filmmaking rules known as the “Vow of Chastity”, is presented in 4K—a bit of a troll on the label’s part, perhaps?