Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Posts Tagged ‘lars von trier

Visions of Europe: 25 Films, 25 Directors (2004)

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An anthology film is a collection of short film projects by different directors for a common aim. Usually they are unified by a common theme – in this case, the European Union. The nature of an anthology is collaborative, transnational, and purposeful. They are not collected after the fact, they are made with the understanding that they will add to a collective vision on one DVD. Our own Dr. Deshpande explains Lars Von Trier’s Visions of Europe project as an anthology in his article:

…collective and collaborative anthologies are made across national boundaries, across cultures, bringing together a group of filmmakers to interpret and express a common theme. These projects are by their very nature “transnational” in some sense, even as one of the objectives of the projects is to search for and establish a context or parameters of a new entity, the collective, multinational form of European Union. The anthology film Europaische Visionen: 25 Filme, 25 Regisseure/ Visions of Europe (2004) was produced by 25 directors from the member states of the expanding European Union.

Indeed, the idea of an anthology film perfectly represents the collective idea of the European Union. The individual films on this DVD represent different countries in the Union with very different ideas about their role as a member. Peter Greenaway’s European Showerbath seems wary about the sharing of resources and what the larger countries of the EU will leave for coming generations, represented in the simple visual metaphor of a group shower. Everyone on screen is naked, highlighting their unity – everyone looks basically the same with no clothes on. One analysis states:

Fifteen countries of Europe, brightly identified with their national flags body-painted on their vulnerable naked flesh, and personified in their political economic history by older or younger, fatter or thinner corporeality, step one by one, optimistically into the warm showerbath of the European Community. First the original six; sturdy if plump-bellied Germany, voluptuous if a little over-extrovert France, young introspective Belgium, confident if a little vain Luxembourg, self-effacing Holland and elderly if a little frivolous Italy, followed, in order of membership by the remaining nine, each with their own physical identities, making up a community self-revealing in their camaraderie, all trying to maximise their position in the European warm water community, shoving a little, flirting a little, laughing and joking, if a little self-consciously, exuberantly demonstrating their togetherness a little too over-eagerly, enjoying mutual, frank, self-exposing, self-revelation, all dipping their heads and limbs and exposed bodies into the limited water-shower of benefits.

Other films on the anthology, like the Slovenian filmmaker Damjan Kozole’s Europa, make smaller statements, like those who are part of the European Union don’t value it as much as those outside of it. Hungary’s Bela Tarr, with the film Prologue, meditates slowly and liltingly on the black and white sameness of the EU, a bleak sharing of too-little resources. Irish filmmaker Aisling Walsh’s Invisible State employs spoken word poetry and flashes of disturbing images to make a heavy-handed yet powerful comment. I’ll leave you with that film…

The Perfect Human (1967)

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The original 1967 short film The Perfect Human directed by Jorgen Leth is black and white, with an aloof, removed narration (by Leth himself) much like a nature documentary. It pokes fun at the idea of perfection in humanity and in film. With just two characters, no setting, and sparse mise-en-scene, it is hailed (perhaps ironically) as a “perfect” film and an example of the Vows of Chastity detailed in the Dogme 95 Manifesto. An admirer and student of Leth, as well as one of the authors of the manifesto, Lars von Trier challenged the older director to remake the film five times, with five different obstructions to muddle the perfection and clarity of the original film. Interesting that their collective goal was to remove the obstruction from truth that film imposes as a medium, and that their plan of action was to further obstruct the truth in order to reveal it. The product of this exercise, The Five Obstructions (2003), is a fascinating study in filmmaking. Is it more important for a filmmaker to impose their artistry in a film to represent the truth, or to lose all artistry and aesthetic to get as close to truth as possible? An analysis from the Movie Gazette writes:

Von Trier wants to disrupt and banalise Leth’s original film, chiselling away at its cool perfection and forcing the director to expose something of his own imperfect humanity in the remakes.

This is most apparant in the last obstruction, in which von Trier forces Leth to allow him to direct and keep Leth’s name on it, as well as casting him to read a voice-over where he admits defeat to von Trier. It’s an interesting look into the relationship between these two filmmakers, and the obvious respect Lars von Trier has for Jorgen Leth even as he tries to trip him up at every turn. The obstructions force the audience to admit “Leth proves over and over how creative he can be—indeed, the obstructions seem to heighten his ingenuity.” (From Ferdy on Films)

Written by Alisa Hathaway

March 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm

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