Lars Von Trier is a filmmaker from Kongens, Lyngby, Denmark.
He was one of the founders of Dogme 95 during the 90’s, which was a rebellion movement against ubiquitous use of special effects and frou-frou that doesn’t carry much substance, which abided by this manifesto – The Vow of Chastity:
1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.)
3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera.)
5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
10. The director must not be credited.
Many years later, when I heard he’s coming out with a feature, free of the manifesto, I was like, “Wuuut!?!”
Then I found out that it’s about a couple who lost their child where the wife/mother is intensely grieving. The husband is a therapist who decides to treat her, himself, by taking her out in the middle of nowhere.
Two things you must never do as a therapist: treat someone close to you and isolate them.
It did not disappoint.
Don’t me wrong, I like my big-budget, substance-less blockbuster films on occasion ’cause it’s fun but these things, to me, are so much more interesting to study.
Montage editing was “radical” or just too “out there” back in the 60s or 70s even though a lot of avant-garde filmmakers were already using it at the time.
Mainstream caught on eventually.
Granted, they didn’t use it quite as much as the avant-garde, or even fairly popular filmmakers. with tendencies towards experimentation, do (ex. Darren Aronofsky or Sofia Coppola). Mainstream media gauges it with the market vs the avant-garde, which has a very no-fucks-given sensibility.
Anyway back to Von Trier: he didn’t use special effects in all the conventional ways at all but IMO it’s really compelling because he used it, strategically, to emphasize human emotion in moments where it’s at its peak. As I’m sure you know, what goes on the inside can be very different, sometimes it looks almost like nothing, on the outside, so what he’s done really puts the audience in a subjective, immersive headspace.