Lars von Trier is back, and not everyone is too thrilled about it. The controversial filmmaker returned to the Cannes Film Festival on May 14 to debut his serial killer drama “The House That Jack Built,” but the movie’s extreme graphic violence against women and children caused walkouts during the screening and severe outrage in the hours after the film’s debut. It’s hardly the first time von Trier has shocked viewers, but the director tells University Posts that he doesn’t see anything wrong with depicting graphic violence and nudity.
“I’m against censorship of any kind,” von Trier said. “My opinion is that if you can think it, you should be able to show it.”
Von Trier explained that the reasoning for his anti-censorship views is due in part to the way he grew up, especially when it comes to depicting nudity. When the filmmaker was a child, his family brought him to nudist camps where everyone was forced to be naked in front of each other, so he admits to always being “open to nudity.” Von Trier films such as “Antichrist” and Nymphomaniac” featured full frontal nudity form both men and women, but the director persists he doesn’t include graphic content just to provoke his viewers.
“‘Nymphomaniac’ was five hours, wasn’t it? That’s an awfully long-wound provocation,” Von Trier said. “I’ve always been accused of provoking for the sake of provoking…[Americans are a little more prudish].”
Von Trier remembered how his openness to graphic nature cost him the Palme d’Or at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. The director was in competition with “Breaking the Waves,” starring Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgård, and the film had to settle for the Grand Prix because, according to von Trier, jury president Francis Ford Coppola considered the feature to be “the world’s ugliest movie.”
While von Trier understands his films’ content poses a challenge to viewers, he doesn’t take any satisfaction in writing and filming such gruesome scenes. Directing “The House That Jack Built” was tough for von Trier, who told University Post that the film was “especially hard because it was filled with angst.” Speaking to the Danish culture website Soundvenue last month, von Trier revealed filming “Jack” led him to drink and caused terrible anxiety, so much so that he’s taking a break from directing features and will make a series of experimental short films next.
Anyone who feels von Trier has gone a little too far in his previous efforts will find much to react to in “The House That Jack Built.” IFC Films already has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the polarizing drama and will release it in theaters this fall. You can ready University Post’s entire interview with von Trier here.