The Danish director who is no stranger to controversy has recently revealed that he has been in treatment for drugs and alcohol. Von Trier talked about his relationship with drinking and the creative process in a recent interview with Danish newspaper Politiken.
He says that a ritual consisting of consuming a bottle of vodka had been necessary for him to enter the right kind of mental state for creative work. The 58 year old director admitted that the majority of his films had been written under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Von Trier expressed concern over how his newfound sobriety would affect the quality of his future work, saying there have been no noteworthy works made by ex-addicts or drunks. He then named The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix as examples of artistic genius that relied on drugs and alcohol.
Von Trier had previously aroused controversy in 2011, when he was banned from the Cannes Film Festival after expressing sympathy for Adolf Hitler and calling himself a Nazi during a press conference for his film Melancholia. The director issued an apology after the incident, but it was not enough to subdue the scandal.
Months later, Von Trier announced that he had taken a self imposed vow of silence under which he would refrain from participating in interviews and making public statements. The recent interview about his newfound sobriety in Politiken is the first time the filmmaker has spoken publicly since then.
Von Trier's odd statements about artistic talent and sobriety are not all that surprising coming from someone who is known for his outspoken behavior and knack for stirring up controversy. His films have long been dividing audiences, with fans praising them as visionary and others criticizing them for their graphic violence and harsh treatment of women.
Von Trier first gained international attention with his 1996 film Breaking The Waves, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and earned actress Emily Watson a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards. Von Trier's involvement with the Dogme 95 movement helped Danish film gain international recognition. The movement emphasized story and acting over special effects and aimed to put the power of filmmaking into the director's hands rather than the studio.
Von Trier's 2000 musical Dancer In The Dark was another international success that earned a Palme d'Ore at Cannes that year. The film starred Icelandic singer Bjork, who also performed on the film's soundtrack. The singer and Von Trier clashed during the making of the film, with Bjork claiming that working with Von Trier on her role was too emotionally taxing and that she would never act again.
The Danish director continued to produce films that challenged audiences' expectations during the next decade. After the controversy surrounding the Melancholia press conference at Cannes, Von Trier went on to release the two part sex odyssey Nymphomaniac. He is currently writing a horror film set in Detroit for another Danish director.
Von Trier has been candid about his struggles with crippling depression and phobias (including a fear of flying). These conditions have often affected his career, causing him to miss public events and limit the choices for filming locations for his movies. It should be interesting to see how the director's completion of rehab and continued attendance of 12 step meetings to treat his alcohol addiction will affect his career and creative output.