Birth Name: Lars Trier
Date of Birth: April 30, 1956
"A film should be like a rock in the shoe."
Born in Copenhagen, Lars von Triers fascination with film began when he was 15, making super 8 and 16mm films. He then studied film at the Danish Film School and directed over 40 commercials before attracting international attention with his very first feature, The Element of Crime (1984). Described by von Triers as "latter day film noir," the film won prizes at Cannes, Chicago and Mannheim.
His subsequent feature Epidemic (1988) was also well-received at Cannes, as was Europa (1991), winning the Special Jury Prize at Cannes as well as awards in Stockholm, Puerto Rico and Belgium.
In between films, von Trier also directed a soap opera called The Kingdom that married hospital drama, ghost stories and a Twin Peaks style surrealism. It was so popular in Denmark that it was released as a full-length feature.
His 1996 feature, Breaking the Waves, brought him the most critical praise. Starring Emily Watson (who received an Oscar nod for her performance) and Stellan Skarsgard, the film centered around a couple who are faced with an emotional challenge when the husband is paralyzed from the waist down. He insists that she makes love to others and tell him about it. That same year, von Trier experienced his own personal drama when he left his then-pregnant wife and moved in with their much younger babysitter, whom he later married.
In 1998 von Trier helmed The Idiots, which was an unconventional comedic venture for the director. The film dealt with a group of intelligent 20-somethings who, in a rebellion against societys structure of life, form a community in which they all act retarded. Creating anarchy wherever they go, the idiots (who have discovered their "inner idiot") do everything they can to annoy, anger and shock. The film was viewed for the most part, as a disappointment.
In 2000, von Trier released Dancer in the Dark, starring singer Bjork as a woman who moves to the US in the 60s and expects it to be like a Hollywood film. It won the Golden Palm at Cannes and also garnered a Best Actress award for the Icelandic pop star. Dogville (2004), which he wrote and directed, stars Nicole Kidman as a woman with a dangerous secret. The film won awards at festivals around the world, and earned von Trier a European Film Award as Best Director.
Von Trier has also published Dogma 95, a manifesto with the goal of counteracting specific tendencies in contemporary film, such as special effects. He has two children with his first wife.