London Contemporary School
Reality Through Trier's Camera
(BA1 - Cultural Studies)
Reality Through Trier's Camera
A narrative is a work that describes a succession of real or fictional actions. In one simple word, it's a story. Nowadays narrative is considered to exist in many different forms, for example as a book, song, film, television, theatre, video-games and even painting and photography. For this reason narrative now has a wide range of ways to present itself, from a more subjective to a more objective way, or from a more unrealistic to a more realistic way. From all the forms in which narrative exists, the field I have chosen for my exploration, due to my passion for it, is cinema. With the purpose to make this study a subject of my interest I searched for something in the film industry that would awake curiosity within me. Then it came to me, who better to be my target than one of the most controversial names in contemporary filmmaking, fortunately the director of one of my favorite movies, Lars von Trier, who approaches matters of Realism. Throughout this work I will be approaching von Trier methods through the object that defines cinema and makes it different from theatre. Von Trier use of the camera within his beliefs on realism, Dogme 95, and how this influences his most popular trilogy, the "Golden Heart Trilogy". In my analysis of his realistic techniques, I will be assessing to what degree von Trier’s methods are in accord with the theorizing of Andre Bazin, one of the most recognized figures in the history of realist film criticism. Lars von Trier is perhaps most well-known as one of the key contributors to the Dogme cinema movement. Together with Thomas Vinterberg he drafted up the “Vow of Chastity”, a list of 10 rules which they intended to stick to in the production of Dogme films. They hoped that by following these regulations they would be able to break away from cliché film practice and create films which are more refreshing and true. Although, of von Trier's work, only “The Idiots” (von Trier, 1998) is a certified Dogme film. The form and content of both “Dancer in the Dark” (von Trier, 2000) and “Breaking the Waves” (von Trier, 1996) are similar enough to be considered as part of the homogenous trilogy, "Golden Heart Trilogy", which exhibits a unique style permeated by Von Trier’s realist sensibility, but never to be qualified as films that respect the Dogme rules. The thematic resemblance of these films is most obvious in their use of outstanding female characters, usually the lead, which clashes with society or reality. In “Breaking the Waves” the character, Bess McNeill, upsets her Calvinist society by marrying a foreigner, this results in her expulsion from the community. With “The Idiots” the character Karen, who we learn is grieving after the death of her child. In the end she rejects her family and her old life in favor of her new radical friends. It seems that she cannot return to the reality of her old family life. Than we have Selma, a Czech immigrant in America, the leading role in Dancer in the Dark. Selma is forced to commit a murder to reclaim money which has been stolen from her in order to pay for an operation to stop her son from going blind. She is sentenced to death. Throughout the film Selma often disappears into a dream world of song and dance, as if sheltering from her harsh reality. So it is evident that even the content of the Golden Heart trilogy investigates notions of reality itself. Just from reading the “Vow of Chastity”, it is clear that there is a strong tendency towards realism embedded in the philosophy of the dogme movement and in the approach of Lars von Trier. Perhaps the most obvious of the realist techniques employed by von Trier throughout this trilogy is the use of hand-held cameras. This is set in the Dogme “Vow of Chastity” which ensures that all of “The Idiots” is hand-held. The same camera technique is used...
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