“I don’t know if I can make more films, and that worries me,” said Danish director Lars von Trier in his first interview since his self-imposed silence, after he was accused of violating French legislation against glorifying war crimes at the press conference following the screening of his film Melancholia at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2011.
In Copenhagen, he told Danish journalist Nils Thorsen, of the Politiken daily, that almost all of his films had been written while he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Now he had been sober for three months, not missing his daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Drinking a bottle of vodka a day and taking “a drug” would put him in a special state, ready to enter a “parallel world” in which ideas could develop. “There is no creative expression of artistic value that has ever been produced by ex-drunkards and ex-drug addicts,” he explained.
The script for Dogville (2003) was written during a 12-day high, while Nymphomaniac(2013) – the only movie he drafted when dry – took 18 months. Now on the wagon, he is afraid that he has run dry as an artist and can only make “shitty films”.
“Obviously, the ‘parallel world’ has its price, but I got an enormous amount out of it – just like all the artists I have respected the most. They have also wallowed in all sorts of mind-expanding drugs,” von Trier declared. He would not recommend alcohol or drugs to anyone, but did not regret having used them during the creative process.
At the Melancholia press conference at Cannes, he said, ”My family were German – that also gave me some pleasure. What can I say? I understand Hitler… I sympathise with him a bit. Now, how can I get out of this sentence? OK, I’m a Nazi.”
On 5 October 2011, he was interrogated by Danish police about the French accusations, and afterwards issued a press release: “I must realise that I am unable to express myself unambiguously. Accordingly, I have decided that from now on, I will refrain from making any public statement.”
Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgård, Nymphomaniac – von Trier’s latest film – was released on 25 December 2013 in a two-part, four-hour version, which he had not himself seen. Later, his own 5½-hour director’s cut was selected for the Berlin (Volume 1) and Venice (Volume 2) Film Festivals; the second part has been nominated for theEuropean Film Awards.