What’s always been fascinating about Lars von Trier is the ways in which he has been able to turn personal pain into creative force—telling stories that highlight the harrowing nature of the human psyche and the human relationships caught in the wake of mental anguish. As someone to never shy away from divulging his problems, the world knew of the director’s crippling depression and anxiety, as well as the effect it had on his work. While making Melancholia, the cast noted that this was the happiest they’d ever seen Lars, especially after coming out of the dark experience of making Antichrist—where some days he couldn’t even make it to set.
Recently we learned that the Danish director is now sober after undergoing treatment for drugs and alcohol. Having maintained distance from press after his “vow of silence,” in a new interview with newspaper Politiken, Lars revealed that all of his films have been written under in a state of intoxication, consuming a daily mix of drugs and alcohol. The director admits to putting himself in a “special state” by “drinking a bottle of vodka a day and taking ‘a drug’…saying that this has been his way of entering a ‘parallel world.’” But with sobriety, comes the striking fear that without the aid and comfort of being able to enter that state, the creative well has run dry.
“I don’t know if I can make more films, and that worries me,” said von Trier. He goes on to reveal that while Dogville was written during a 12-day high, Nymphomaniac was written while sober and took a 18 months. “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,” he said. It’s difficult to say what will happen with Lars’ cinematic future and just how this will effect the puncturing nature of his work, but in light of this, it’s interesting to look back on the beginning of his directorial work.
And in 1998, filmmaker Sophies Fiennes made a 10-minute short documentary titled Lars from 1-10, exploring the originals of Dogme 95. We’re given a closer look at the conception of manifesto, as well as the enthusiastic early days as a filmmaker, just before making The Idiots. “If people don’t like it, I couldn’t care less,” he says—and well, at least that much hasn’t changed.
Enjoy the video for yourself below.