Von Trier on the merits of looking backwards and nowhere else

Lars von Trier’s Antichrist is currently playing in small towns like New York City, and as I’ve stated many times, I’m really hoping that it reaches Madison in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, you may to check out the interview that von Trier gave to the A.V. Club’s Scott Tobias in this week’s issue of The Onion. Of particular interest is the following question-and-answer:

Tobias: Do you keep up very well with movies that are being made now?

Von Trier: No. No. […] normally, no, I don’t see newer films. I have this idea that it would be interesting to have somebody who does not look at all the new stuff. Because when you look at the new stuff, then you are kind of influenced in a bad way. You get excited by something, and then you move in that direction, and you get excited by another thing, then you move in that direction. Even when this is crumbling for me, I still have a feeling that I go more or less in the same direction without distractions.

A number of legendary directors have prided themselves on not being cinephiles (like Bresson and Kiarostami, to name a couple), but it’s rare to come across one who doesn’t reject cinephilia per se but who instead chooses to remain ignorant of contemporary cinema for creative reasons.

Given how influential von Trier has been since his initial rise to international infamy in the mid-1990s, one wonders whether all those who have aped elements of von Trier’s style have perhaps been looking for inspiration in the wrong place; in almost every recent interview von Trier has gone out of his way to mention how personally important the work of Andrei Tarkovsky (and, though not explicitly stated this go-round, of Carl Th. Dreyer) has been for him—indeed, he had the cast and crew of Antichrist watch Tarkovsky’s The Mirror prior to shooting. Though many critics have dismissed the possibility that Antichrist actually contains Tarkovskyian traces, I nevertheless think it’s something to look out for when Antichrist eventually makes it to the Badger state—if it makes it to the Badger state. (Sundance, I’m looking at you.)


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