Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 16 News List

Von Trier fires off at press and Kidman

The bristling Danish director was at his controversial best for the premier of his film "Dogville"

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER IN CANNES, FRANCE

Director Lars Von Trier, second left, and his wife, left, actress Nicole Kidman, second right, with Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, right, arrive at the Palais des festivals to attend the screening of their film Dogville.

PHOTO: AFP

After five days of rather peaceful screenings and the usual parties, the sixth day of the 56th Cannes Film Festival finally saw some fireworks yesterday, with Danish maverick director Lars Von Trier lighting the fuses.

Von Trier was premiering his latest film, Dogville, starring Nicole Kidman and got involved in a confrontation with journalists at the following press conference for the film. Kidman, meanwhile, looked uneasy throughout the ordeal, smoked nervously, and tried to be supportive of the director, but still ended up being bullied by him.

"Could you tell the public right now, saying yes, you'll be playing the next two parts of the trilogy after the first Dogville?" Von Trier demanded. "Yes, I already promised you yesterday," Kidman replied with an embarrassed look.

The controversial director's new film is seen as a damning indictment of the American way of life. It presents a seemingly ordinary tale and then develops it, brilliantly, into a story of ridicule and madness.

But his caustic take on America has also caused resentment. Like many of his previous films, the reception for Dogville was a wildly contrasting mixture of cheers and catcalls.

After the screening, however, came the real drama, as critics were herded into the press conference room, where Von Trier was first questioned about his non-realistic style of filmmaking.

Dogville is about an American town in the 1920s, yet the entire film was shot in a studio in Copenhagen, in a style similar to a stage play. Von Trier was asked why he did this.

"I'm not afraid of making a film in strange ways. I don't think it's a challenge for me. It is maybe challenging to shoot with lots of actors at the same time, and of course, to finish the project. But it's not the style that I find difficult," he said.

"I actually wanted to do a film in such a way because it keeps the fun and enjoyment when we are reading the script."

The press then focused on the relationship between Kidman and Von Trier, as the filmmaker is known for being demanding with his actors, such as Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves and Bjork in Dancer in the Dark. There have been rumors that Kidman was almost driven mad during shooting for Dogville.

"I am willing to take this journey. He has strong belief in the film and that makes me believe," Kidman said. "The first time I read about the story and the part when I had to be chained with an iron hook on the neck, I was like `Okaaaay ....' But once you take a leap of faith, it becomes a commitment and a matter of trust."

A journalist asked if there had been any arguments between the two. "Our relationship is good. The first week was a bit tricky. We had pre-conceptions of each other. But after three hours walking in the forests, after the tears and screaming at each other, we opened up our minds to each other," Kidman said.

In the film, Kidman plays a beautiful woman trying to escape an isolated small town.

Wanting the villagers to accept her, she tries helping them out by laboring in the garden and taking care of the young and the sick. A righteous-looking, philosopher-type defends her and she falls in love with him.

However, a series of unfortunate events ensues and she ends up becoming a sex slave, when a mysterious man in a black car turns up at the village.

US journalists asked why there had to be so much torture? And why was it always a women being tortured?

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