On His Birthday, Watch 12 Lars von Trier Films Streaming Right Now

Notorious Danish director has made a career of turning personal pain into creative expression and cinematic pleasure. For over three decades now, he’s been delivering his signature brand of emotionally potent cinema that explores the depths of human suffering and the ways we attempt to cope with the aches of existence. While grandiose in tone, there’s always a stark humanity to his work and a distinct visual sense all his own. As today marks the director’s 59th birthday, celebrate by diving into his work with films from 2014’s Nymphomaniac to his student short films.

Bonus: Watch  Lars von Trier in the 1998 Short Documentary Lars From 1-10 Lars von Trier, Wim Wenders, & More in ‘FreeDogme’

NYMPHOMANIAC (2013)

Fascinating in its novel-esque richness, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac is a cacophony of visceral emotion and brilliant storytelling, weaving together the fragmented tale of one woman’s life. And after ravaging the screen in Antichrist and Melancholia, Gainsbourg delivers a tortured and deeply intense performance as Joe, allowing us to empathize with a woman who can be both disastrous in her behavior, but incredibly human and refreshingly honest. Here we see a character whose insatiable desire for sex and for pleasure is not only about the satisfying the physical sensation, but about a deep-rooted longing, and need to fill the emptiness and the eternal void that makes life frightening. For Joe, who repeatedly demands, “Fill all my holes,” sex becomes the ritual that gives her life meaning and structure,  making the film not only an erotic epic, but an exploration of the rituals we hold sacred that give way to addictions and become the fire that keep us alive.

Available to watch on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video

MELANCHOLIA (2011)

If I were choosing a director to make a film about the end of the world, von Trier the gloomy Dane might be my first choice. The only other name that comes to mind is Werner Herzog’s. Both understand that at such a time silly little romantic subplots take on a vast irrelevance. Doctor Johnson told Boswell: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” In the cast of von Trier’s characters, impending doom seems to have created a mental state of dazed detachment. They continue to act as if their personal concerns have the slightest relevance. Von Trier has never made a more realistic domestic drama, depicting a family that is dysfunctional not in crazy ways but in ways showing a defiant streak of intelligent individualism. (x)

Available to watch on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon

ANTICHRIST (2009)

Lars von Trier shook up the film world when he premiered Antichrist at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. In this graphic psychodrama, a grief-stricken man and woman—a searing Willem Dafoe and Cannes best actress winner Charlotte Gainsbourg—retreat to their cabin deep in the woods after the accidental death of their infant son, only to find terror and violence at the hands of nature and, ultimately, each other. But this most confrontational work yet from one of contemporary cinema’s most controversial artists is no mere provocation. It is a visually sublime, emotionally ravaging journey to the darkest corners of the possessed human mind; a disturbing battle of the sexes that pits rational psychology against age-old superstition; and a profoundly effective horror film. (x)

Available to watch on Hulu +, Netflix, iTunes and Amazon

DOGVILLE (2003)

The idea reminds us of “Our Town,” but von Trier’s version could be titled “Our Hell.” In his town, which I fear works as a parable of America, the citizens are xenophobic, vindictive, jealous, suspicious and capable of rape and murder. His dislike of the United States (which he has never visited, since he is afraid of airplanes) is so palpable that it flies beyond criticism into the realm of derangement. When the film premiered at Cannes 2003, he was accused of not portraying Americans accurately, but how many movies do? Anything by David Spade come to mind? Von Trier could justifiably make a fantasy about America, even an anti-American fantasy, and produce a good film, but here he approaches the ideological subtlety of a raving prophet on a street corner. (x)

Available to stream on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video

BREAKING THE WAVES (1996)

Lars von Trier became an international sensation with this galvanizing realist fable about sex and spiritual transcendence. In an Oscar-nominated performance, Emily Watson stuns as Bess, a simple, pious newlywed in a tiny Scottish village who gives herself up to a shocking form of martyrdom after her husband (Stellan Skarsgård) is paralyzed in an oil rig accident. Breaking the Waves, both brazen and tender, profane and pure, is an examination of the expansiveness of faith and of its limits. (x)

Available to watch on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu +

EUROPA (1991)

“You will now listen to my voice . . . On the count of ten you will be in Europa . . .” So begins Max von Sydow’s opening narration to Lars von Trier’s hypnoticEuropa (known in the U.S. as Zentropa), a fever dream in which American pacifist Leopold Kessler (Jean-Marc Barr) stumbles into a job as a sleeping-car conductor for the Zentropa railways in a Kafkaesque 1945 postwar Frankfurt. With its gorgeous black-and-white and color imagery and meticulously recreated (if then nightmarishly deconstructed) costumes and sets, Europa is one of the great Danish filmmaker’s weirdest and most wonderful works, a runaway-train ride to an oddly futuristic past. (x)

Available to watch on Hulu +

DANCER IN THE DARK (2000)

The film stars Bjork, the Icelandic pop star, as Selma, a Czech who has emigrated to America, has a small son, works as a punch-press operator, is going blind and is saving her money for an operation to prevent her son from going blind, too. To supplement her income she fastens straight pins to cards for a fraction of a penny per card. She keeps her money in a candy box. If I told you the movie was set in 1912 and starred Lillian Gish, you might not have the slightest difficulty in accepting this plot; whether you would like it, of course, would depend on whether you could make the leap of sympathy into the world of silent melodrama. (x)

Available to watch on iTunes

ELEMENT OF CRIME (1984)

Lars von Trier’s stunning debut film is the story of Fisher, an exiled ex-cop who returns to his old beat to catch a serial killer with a taste for young girls. Influenced equally by Hitchcock and science fiction, von Trier (Europa, Breaking the Waves, The Idiots) boldly reinvents expressionist style for his own cinematic vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Shot in shades of sepia, with occasional, startling flashes of bright blue, The Element of Crime(Forbrydelsens Element) combines dark mystery and operatic sweep to yield a pure celluloid nightmare. (x)

Available to watch on Hulu+

EN BLOMST (1971)

Hvorfor flygte fra det du ved du ikke kan flygte fra? Fordi du er en kujon AKA Why Try to Escape from Which You Know You Can’t Escape from? Because You Are a Coward. 

Watch HERE

THE ORCHID GARDENER 

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“A young, mentally ill man, a visual artist in crisis Victor Marse (Lars von Trier) meets two nurses (Eliza and her girlfriend) during his stay in a sanatorium. These nurses are obvious lesbians. Victor lives with Eliza and her son. He imagines another woman when he is roaming at a coast. He pretends committing a suicide but Eliza does not react to it. Every moment, he stays in front of a blank canvas and thinks. Meanwhile he dresses into Nazi clothes or into women dresses, then he leaves to go to the cinema, and abuses and probably kills a small girl. His masochistic affair with Eliza lasts; he is close to shooting her with a gun but instead she takes out a whip. Victor goes along the streets then he lies naked in front of the canvas on which he has left his bloody fingerprints. After this he drives a funeral car to his work – he is employed in a garden where orchids are grown. Eliza is now the past and in the end, Victor might be dead as someone drives a cross into the ground.”

Watch HERE

METNHE (1979)

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“la bienheureuse is a Danish short film of the Danish director Lars von Trier from 1979. The film is based on the sadomasochistic novel by Dominique Aury , Story of O , and tells the story of a voluntary female subjugation . The production is produced in black and white, the second by the famous artist.”

Watch HERE
NOCTURNE (1980)

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