That controversial press conference in full…
Brogen Hayes sat through the now infamous ‘Melancholia’ press conference at Cannes, in attendance were Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kirsten Dunst, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgard, Jasper Christiansen, Brady Corbett, Udo Kier, and of course Lars Von Trier.
Check out the Melancholia trailer below
What made you do a film about the end of the world?
LVT: To me, it is not so much a film about the end of the world, it is a film about a state of mind. I have been through some melancholic stages of my life so it was obvious to do this. I am sorry, I don’t have so much to say, I am happy to be here and I am happy that Melancholia is coming next month, because it will be wonderful PR for the film.
What was it like working with Lars Von Trier?
KD: I was drawn to the project because, to me, Lars is the only film maker who specifically makes films for women who are ugly and messy and not this perfect idea of what women should be in film. I was thrilled at the opportunity to work with Lars, he doesn’t make that many movies. I went in with an open vulnerability and trust because of the way that Lars presents himself to you. Now I feel like I have a good friend as well.
CG: I didn’t know him very well on Antichrist. I have the feeling that I know him a little better now…
LVT: Well I know you a lot better!
CG: The work was different, but pushing in the same way.
SS: He doesn’t shoot on film any more which is a blessing – he goes much faster now. He lets you loose in a way and takes away the responsibility from you. It makes you feel very free and very creative, that hasn’t changed, it has just developed.
UK: We started working together for television. I am part of the family and the roles sometimes are very small, but I still like it because I am part of the films.I like it very much and I hope to work on many more.
LVT: Yes I have found a new way to cast Udo, I typecast him as a homosexual. That helped! [laughs] Your performance is fantastic, Udo, I don’t know where you get it from! [laughs]
If this film is not about the end of the world, it is certainly about the culture of fear and depression in women, and I was curious how you feel about that?
KD: For me, the depression and the unravelling of Justine in the beginning of her wedding, throws her into a depression. I also think that what’s interesting about her is that as the world is coming to an end, she gets stronger and stronger and she is the one that brings them together. In terms of Lars and working with women, I commend him, there are not many female roles out there like this where you can be crazy, vulnerable and strange. That’s a freedom that’s very scary, but also gives you a braveness that I took with me onto other projects after this.
CG: I don’t really have the impression that we are portraying women in particular, I have the impression that in Antichrist, I was playing him (Lars Von Trier) and Kirsten was playing him in this film. Of course, they are beautiful parts for women, but I don’t see the separation between men and women characters.
Why do you think Justine behaved the way she did on her wedding day?
LVT: I would say that this whole marriage thing is something that she has made herself do. She has probably has had the melancholia before, and has been suffering from a bad mood many times before, and now she hopes that getting into the restrained situation of a marriage will help her. It’s a plan and she is striving for it. She hopes that will stabilise her in her life.
There are many layer to Lars Von Trier’s films, did you discuss these with him?
CG: Yes, I asked him many questions, but I received no answers, other than the screenplay, but I liked that. I liked being in the dark in a way.
Are you happy with your film?
LVT: Yes! [laughs] It was a very big pleasure to do the film. All the Wagner stuff that we put in… Everything became over romantic, which was nice to do! Then when I saw it in bits, I kind of rejected it a little bit, so I am not really sure [laughs]… Maybe it’s crap! [laughs] Of course I hope not, but there is a big possibility that this may not be worth seeing.
Do you think Melancholia is a strong contender for the Palme D’Or?
LVT: Oh yes I do! Oh yes! Oh yes! [laughs]
What was the work process like on this film?
KD: I think the intimacy that Lars creates on set makes you emotionally ready, then we do as much as we have to do. We do as many takes or different ways until he’s happy. The process is very freeing: anything goes, then rein it in or the other way around. We did a take that lasted five minutes, when do you get to do that!? All your walls are thrown away and you are left with a very natural state of being.
Did you ask Mr Von Trier about the obsession with the name Betty?
JH: I didn’t, and I will tell you why, because I wouldn’t have got an answer. [laughs] We don’t rehearse and you have to switch into your imagination as quickly as possible.
Can you tell us about your inspiration for the look of the film?
LVT: German painting, Pre-Raphaelite paintings. I travelled around on my little heard disk in my head to see what would suit this film. Of course it’s a rip off of a lot of directors. We had fun doing this film, but I would like to talk about my next film. Kirsten insisted that it be a porn film.
LVT: We made this very famous beaver shot in the film, where Kirsten demanded to be naked. I said it doesn’t fir the film, and she said I feel strongly about this, and I said OK and now she wants more. That’s how women are. Charlotte is in on this, and they want a really really hardcore film. I am doing my best. I wanted to have a lot of dialogue, and they said no, we don’t give a shit about the dialogue. They just want to have a lot of unpleasant sex and that’s what I am writing right now. It’s going to be three or four hours long, and that means that this press conference will be a little later, so I can sleep a little longer [laughs]
It is said in the film that this is a pointless life, and a pointless world. Since you are the writer and director, is this some of your own opinion?
LVT: Oh yes. [laughs]
Your films are very melancholic, but you are very funny in person, why aren’t you making comedies?
LVT: Because when I make comedies, they become melancholic also [laughs]. This was actually a comedy, so you don’t want to see a tragedy! [laughs]
Can you talk about your German roots, the Gothic aspects of this film, and the fact that you have mentioned in a Danish film magazine your interest in the Nazi aesthetic?
LVT: The only thing I can tell is that I thought I was a Jew for a long time, and was very happy being a true. Later came (Jewish Danish director) Susanne Bier and I was less happy about being a Jew. That was a joke. It turns out that I was not a Jew, and even if I was a Jew, I would be a second rate Jew because of the hierarchy of the family. The I found out that I was really a Nazi because my family name is Hartman, which also gave me some pleasure [laughs]. What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, absolutely. I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end. I am just saying that I understand the man. He is not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathise with him in a little bit. But come on! I am not for the Second World War! I am very for Jews, no not too much because Israelis… Pain in the ass, but… How can I get out of this sentence? [laughs] In terms of the art, I liked Albert Speer, he was one of God’s best children and he had a talent that is was possible for him to use… [sighs] OK, I’m a Nazi [laughs]
Is this your answer to the Hollywood blockbuster, or could you see yourself doing something on a grander scale than this?
LVT: Yes that’s what we Nazi’s… we have a tendency to try and do things on a grander scale [laughs]. Maybe you could persuade me into the Final Solution… With journalists. [laughs]
Words – Brogen Hayes