Von Trier’s 100 Eyes

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

VON TRIER’S 100 EYES

6/10

Von Triers 100 Ojne : Denmark 2001
director : Katia Forbert Petersen
documentary
cinematography : Petersen
editing : Steen Johanssen
60 minutes

Lars Von Trier and the making of Dancer in the Dark – or rather, vice versa. Audiences expecting a standard ‘behind the scenes’ documentary expose, look elsewhere: star Bjork, is never seen apart from in finished-movie footage – an end title informs us ‘Bjork did not wish to comment in this film.’

The countless infuriating gaps include any explanation for her mysterious Stephen Fry-style ‘holiday’ from the shoot – though we do see what’s left of a dress after she’s ‘bitten it into tiny pieces.’ The most amusing moment comes when Von Trier mulls on ways to get over the absence of his vital star, and ponders the possibility of filming empty sets and somehow inserting a digital Bjork ‘by technological means.’ As for the real technology employed, there’s also frustrating little on the actual ‘100 eyes’ themselves, the array of cheap DV cameras Von Trier placed all over his set in order to free himself from the slavery of actually ‘composing’ each shot. The moments when we see the output from nine of the cameras, filling the screen and giving Dancer a cubist remix, are intriguing but all-too-brief.

Instead, the film mostly consists of valium-popping Lars detailing his preoccupations and his what-the-hell techniques in inimitable idiot-savant style, amply rewarding admirers who felt short-changed by his fleeting contribution to De Udstillede (The Exhibited, last year’s documentary on one of his conceptual-art projects.) Time and again Von Trier touches on some fascinating aspect of the film – that Catherine Deneuve’s role was originally written as a 35-year-old black woman; his relationship with Bjork was ‘like a marriage’, but too often were told things without being shown them, without being allowed to form our own conclusions.

Von Trier has always seemed to attract the most unquestioning of hero-worshippers, and from this evidence Katia Forbert Petersen is one such acolyte – not only does she never challenge anything he says, she gives her film a title which explicitly links him with German cinema’s legendary uber-villain character Dr Mabuse, an omniscient, almost omnipotent megalomaniac (who, according to the title of one of his films, had ‘1000 Eyes’, i.e. surveillance cameras).

But this approach makes the fundamental error of taking Von Trier too seriously. With his love of ‘random effects’, larkish ‘games’ and relentless freewheeling, he may not even be a ‘director’ as we’ve come to know the term. He’ll try anything rather than face the terrible day when he has to actually grow up – in the film’s most plausible ‘confession’, he praises cinema as a way to stay within the control-freak realm of childhood, and making Dancer seems to bring him closer than ever to a relatively adult state of mind. Von Trier is more uber-prankster than anything else, and, if anything, 100 Eyes confirms his status our leading cinematic bullshit-artist. But, as Dancer shows, bullshit artists are still artists, and thus capable of great masterpieces.


12th December, 2001
(seen Dec-8-01, Soprus, Tallinn, Estonia – Black Nights Film Festival)

by Neil Young
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