Visionary. Lunatic. Nazi. Enfant terrible. Misogynist. Genius. Poseur.
Lars Von Trier is called so many things that we often forget that he's a terrific director of actors. With his strange sense of humor and world views, his films are often as alienating as they are enlightening, but actors seem to die to work for him. He's led three of his actresses to wins at the Cannes Film Festival and has injected new life into the careers of actors like Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe and now Uma Thurman. Whether you're a fan of his films or not, his contributions to directing actors are incomparable. Now that both of his Nymphomaniac volumes are out in theaters (reviewed), it's a great time to look back
9. Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia
When Penélope Cruz dropped out of Melancholia (to star in Pirates of the Caribbean of all things…) Kirsten Dunst must’ve been the last person anyone would’ve seen taking over the role and yet she was breathtaking as the tragic Justine, who realizes she’s not living the life she wants, just as the world is about to end. Melancholia is Von Trier’s most depressing film to date, and Dunst delivers one of the most heart wrenching portrayals of extreme sadness ever, but there is a reassuring beauty in her work, that allow us to see flashes of unexpected hope.
6. Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist
Playing symbols is hard, but that is precisely what Gainsbourg does in Antichrist. She is given the almost impossible task to try and embody “womanhood”, with all the flaws Von Trier sees in the concept. She is the devilish Eve whose entire purpose seems to draw man (Willem Dafoe) into sin and Gainsbourg takes on the role with a lack of self consciousness that’s almost chilling to watch.
3. Bjork in Dancer in the Dark
Bjork’s Selma is one of the rawest performances captured on film. The Icelandic singer not only puts her voice to excellent use, but also allows her impish qualities to turn her into a martyr for the ages. Her sad smile as she takes on the world’s injustice without a single complaint would result even more infuriating if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re probably sobbing endlessly and can’t even think right. It’s a shame she decided not to act again after dealing with the pressure of such a role, but in terms of iconic work this is up there with Falconetti.
2. Nicole Kidman in Dogville
Grace Margaret Mulligan arrives in the town of Dogville one night, escaping horrors her face only suggests. She takes shelter with seemingly harmless villagers who offer her a refuge from evil, only to reveal to be worse than whatever it is she was running away from originally. Perhaps the key performance of her 2001-2004 renaissance, Kidman’s work in Dogville allowed the actress to create the ultimate calling card for herself, as she uses the same physicality of Moulin Rouge!, the chameleonic abilities she displayed in The Hours (and sans prosthetics!) and the viciousness she had showed in To Die For. Watching her go from meek creature to an angel of death is nothing if not revelatory.
1. Charlotte Gainsbourg in Melancholia
If Dunst is exquisite, then finding the right adjective for Gainsbourg’s work in Melancholia is quite impossible. Starting off as the more “adjusted” sibling, her Claire is the rock to troubled Justine in the first part of the film, but as the plot moves from emotional liberation towards the apocalypse, Claire allows her demons to take over her and we see her do the opposite of what she did in Antichrist. In the former she was so secure of her convictions that she even became murderous, while in the latter we see doubt take over her in a manner we’d only seen in the work of Ingmar Bergman. There are inarguably many other performances in Lars Von Trier’s oeuvre that seem more powerful, more iconic and more important, but to date Gainsbourg’s remains the most haunting.
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what a celebration of total QUEENS and unexpected but entirely deserving choice for #1!!!