Any Lars Von Trier fans here?

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#1 Posted by MrGeezer (56219 posts) -

Just by chance, I recently ended up seeing Antichrist on Netflix. Didn't know anything about the movie except that there was some kind of controversy about it, and that I remembered thinking that the trailer looked cool. And...WOW. There were some problems with it, but overall I thought it was quite compelling (and that prologue was simply AWESOME).

So, thinking that I should probably check out some of this guy's other stuff, I watched Melancholia. A little bit slow in spots, but it was a great character drama with some haunting imagery. So even though I've only seen two of this guy's movies, I'm really liking what I'm seeing so far.

My question to those of you familiar with him is, how does this guy manage to afford to make movies?

I mean, Antichrist probably didn't require a huge budget. There were only two characters (aside from the kid), and much of the film was set in the woods/apartment/cabin and consistent of just talking (and fucking). That has to cut down on costs quite a bit. But still, this movie didn't look cheap. There were some fairly elaborate looking shots in the movie, and when I see that it had a worldwide box office of less than a million dollars (as well as content that would get it banned from most cinemas and store shelves), I'm wondering how they could possibly turn a profit on this.

Same with Melancholia. It did a bit better ($15 million worldwide). Probably due to achieving an R rating and actually having a fairly sized cast consisting of well known actors (such as John Hurt, Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland, etc). But then again, that cast has to inflate the budget. And this movie also didn't look cheap.

Now I see that he's got a new movie out (Nymphomaniac) which I see has both hard NC-17 content AND an extensive cast of A and B list actors, and I'm just like, HOW? How the hell is guy actually affording to make these movies? Because even though these are only three movies out of his entire career, their box office grosses seem to be predictably crappy. And he either seems to be inculuding content that'll guarantee a low box office numbers, or hiring talent who ought to be way more expensive than what the movies are bringing in. And granted, I've only looked at Box office totals, but can DVD sales really be THAT lucrative? If so, then why the NC-17 stigma?

#2 Posted by IMAHAPYHIPPO (2568 posts) -

Von Trier's a pretty controversial figure around Hollywood, just look what's going on with Shia LeBeouf. That and his new two-part movie's called Nymphomaniac.

#3 Edited by MrGeezer (56219 posts) -

Von Trier's a pretty controversial figure around Hollywood, just look what's going on with Shia LeBeouf. That and his new two-part movie's called Nymphomaniac.

That's all fine and well, but it doesn't really answer the question of how the hell this guy can afford to make these movies.

And to be fair, I don't even know the budget of these movies. And I did look (briefly). The website posted the box office results, but for production budget it was just listed as "N/A". But still, even though I'm sure that these aren't massively budgeted movies, they can't be that cheap. Antichrist alone had a $hitload of names in the credits, as well as what had to be serious work in regards to animal scenes and digital/CGI manipulation. For all of that to be done on a sub-million dollar box office +DVD sales, just seems ludicrous to me. Particularly how even if an NC-17 movie bypasses cinemas, most of the big retailers won't sell the DVD either.

So how the hell does this guy make three movies in a row that are guaranteed to have a low box office, while still maintaining fairly high production values and hiring good talent? I'm not slamming the guy's work and I know that he's controversial. But how is he able to make enough money to consistently get this kind of talent in these kinds of well-produced movies that are guaranteed to be stinkers at the box office?

#4 Posted by IMAHAPYHIPPO (2568 posts) -

@MrGeezer: A combination of a lot of things. Sometimes for directors like Von Trier, actors will sign on for a lot less than they're accustomed to making, specifically because of namesake. Jonah Hill signed on to Wolf of Wall Street for literally the lowest amount of money anybody can legally be paid in Hollywood -- not the best example, because Scorcese's a little different.

Also, box office isn't always the best indicator for films like this. If the next Avatar tanks in theaters, Cameron's sequels are getting tanked, but a movie like Nymphomaniac can make its money overseas and through blu ray sales (most people don't want to go see a movie called Nymphomaniac in theaters).

Most importantly, the amount of money floating around Hollywood is so absurdly disgusting I'm sometimes embarrassed to be a part of it when there's so many people struggling in the current economy. It costs something like 10,000$ an hour to run a film set, not to mention selling a script for half a million dollars and all that nonsense. Pretty much if you have an interesting voice like Lars Von Trier, somebody's going to give a stupid amount of funding to create your vision.

#5 Edited by MrGeezer (56219 posts) -

@MrGeezer: A combination of a lot of things. Sometimes for directors like Von Trier, actors will sign on for a lot less than they're accustomed to making, specifically because of namesake. Jonah Hill signed on to Wolf of Wall Street for literally the lowest amount of money anybody can legally be paid in Hollywood -- not the best example, because Scorcese's a little different.

Also, box office isn't always the best indicator for films like this. If the next Avatar tanks in theaters, Cameron's sequels are getting tanked, but a movie like Nymphomaniac can make its money overseas and through blu ray sales (most people don't want to go see a movie called Nymphomaniac in theaters).

Most importantly, the amount of money floating around Hollywood is so absurdly disgusting I'm sometimes embarrassed to be a part of it when there's so many people struggling in the current economy. It costs something like 10,000$ an hour to run a film set, not to mention selling a script for half a million dollars and all that nonsense. Pretty much if you have an interesting voice like Lars Von Trier, somebody's going to give a stupid amount of funding to create your vision.

Thanks for your input. That's actually sort of reassuring. For all that people talk about the movie industry being a soulless greed machine, it's good to know that there are enough people out there willing to support (at least some) directors simply (or primarily) out of the interest of helping a true visionary director.

That being said...I'm curious about something. True interest in a visionary artist or not, is there really that much money floating around to "waste" on works of genius that are guaranteed to be commercial flops?

Let me stop there and digress for a moment. i used to like going to the cinema. When I went, I used to buy a popcorn and a soda. But ticket prices went up and food prices went up. I used to think that the cinemas were hosing me, but the explanation I heard was that the movie studios were hosing the cinemas. As in, the movie studios get a Shitload of money from ticket sales, that's why the cinemas have to raise prices and charge 4 fucking bucks for a bottle of water. And that makes anecdotal sense, considering the number of cinemas I've seen personally close down in the last 15-20 years.

So...the movie studios are taking all the money. Except that I hear that they aren't either. People make a big point about how the epidemic of sequels and remakes that we've been seeing is largely due to movie studios NOT being in a good financial position, and having to resort to "safe bets" in order to make enough money to stay afloat. LOTR was a big success story, but I also keep hearing that it was a HUGE risk and that the studio would have been dead if the first movie had flopped. Bottom line: I keep hearing that the movie studios that greenlight these movies are also often only a few flops away from going under.

So...that seems a little bit weird to me in itself. There's this MASSIVE amount of money floating around, enough to fund high quality "artsy" movies that are guaranteed to flop, yet many studios are SUPPOSEDLY doing so poorly that a single big-budget flop could ruin them, AND they're having to resort to sequels and remakes because they're just that hard up on a guaranteed pay day?

You work in the industry, so hopefully you can provide some perspective on this for me. I DON'T want budgets for stuff like Lars Von Tier movies to get cut, because I truly did like what I saw. But how is Hollywood money getting put into movies like that, when Hollywood studios are SUPPOSEDLY so hard up on money as it is? Hell...even if we look at an actor like Willem Dafoe. I don't know how much he got paid for Antichrist, but let's assume that he basically did it for almost nothing. He's ALSO doing standard Hollywood crap like Spider-Man. That is to say, he can do high pay movies and low pay movies, but his low pay movies are probably largely possible because he has standard Hollywood crap to allow him that freedom. If it's really the case that many Hollywood studios are in such a precarious position, wouldn't it be smarter to invest that time and effort back into the Hollywood studios that pay the bills?

Or...is it really that Hollywood studios DO hav that much money to piss away, and that the whole idea of them being only a few flops away from closing down is a total lie?

And really...I'm not disagreeing with you or countering what you're saying, I'm just sort of curious how this stuff actually works. If you don't want to provide a big reply, can you at least think of a documentary or something (hopefully on Netflix or Youtube) that explains how this stuff works?

#6 Posted by IMAHAPYHIPPO (2568 posts) -

@MrGeezer said:

@IMAHAPYHIPPO said:

@MrGeezer: A combination of a lot of things. Sometimes for directors like Von Trier, actors will sign on for a lot less than they're accustomed to making, specifically because of namesake. Jonah Hill signed on to Wolf of Wall Street for literally the lowest amount of money anybody can legally be paid in Hollywood -- not the best example, because Scorcese's a little different.

Also, box office isn't always the best indicator for films like this. If the next Avatar tanks in theaters, Cameron's sequels are getting tanked, but a movie like Nymphomaniac can make its money overseas and through blu ray sales (most people don't want to go see a movie called Nymphomaniac in theaters).

Most importantly, the amount of money floating around Hollywood is so absurdly disgusting I'm sometimes embarrassed to be a part of it when there's so many people struggling in the current economy. It costs something like 10,000$ an hour to run a film set, not to mention selling a script for half a million dollars and all that nonsense. Pretty much if you have an interesting voice like Lars Von Trier, somebody's going to give a stupid amount of funding to create your vision.

Thanks for your input. That's actually sort of reassuring. For all that people talk about the movie industry being a soulless greed machine, it's good to know that there are enough people out there willing to support (at least some) directors simply (or primarily) out of the interest of helping a true visionary director.

That being said...I'm curious about something. True interest in a visionary artist or not, is there really that much money floating around to "waste" on works of genius that are guaranteed to be commercial flops?

Let me stop there and digress for a moment. i used to like going to the cinema. When I went, I used to buy a popcorn and a soda. But ticket prices went up and food prices went up. I used to think that the cinemas were hosing me, but the explanation I heard was that the movie studios were hosing the cinemas. As in, the movie studios get a Shitload of money from ticket sales, that's why the cinemas have to raise prices and charge 4 fucking bucks for a bottle of water. And that makes anecdotal sense, considering the number of cinemas I've seen personally close down in the last 15-20 years.

So...the movie studios are taking all the money. Except that I hear that they aren't either. People make a big point about how the epidemic of sequels and remakes that we've been seeing is largely due to movie studios NOT being in a good financial position, and having to resort to "safe bets" in order to make enough money to stay afloat. LOTR was a big success story, but I also keep hearing that it was a HUGE risk and that the studio would have been dead if the first movie had flopped. Bottom line: I keep hearing that the movie studios that greenlight these movies are also often only a few flops away from going under.

So...that seems a little bit weird to me in itself. There's this MASSIVE amount of money floating around, enough to fund high quality "artsy" movies that are guaranteed to flop, yet many studios are SUPPOSEDLY doing so poorly that a single big-budget flop could ruin them, AND they're having to resort to sequels and remakes because they're just that hard up on a guaranteed pay day?

You work in the industry, so hopefully you can provide some perspective on this for me. I DON'T want budgets for stuff like Lars Von Tier movies to get cut, because I truly did like what I saw. But how is Hollywood money getting put into movies like that, when Hollywood studios are SUPPOSEDLY so hard up on money as it is? Hell...even if we look at an actor like Willem Dafoe. I don't know how much he got paid for Antichrist, but let's assume that he basically did it for almost nothing. He's ALSO doing standard Hollywood crap like Spider-Man. That is to say, he can do high pay movies and low pay movies, but his low pay movies are probably largely possible because he has standard Hollywood crap to allow him that freedom. If it's really the case that many Hollywood studios are in such a precarious position, wouldn't it be smarter to invest that time and effort back into the Hollywood studios that pay the bills?

Or...is it really that Hollywood studios DO hav that much money to piss away, and that the whole idea of them being only a few flops away from closing down is a total lie?

And really...I'm not disagreeing with you or countering what you're saying, I'm just sort of curious how this stuff actually works. If you don't want to provide a big reply, can you at least think of a documentary or something (hopefully on Netflix or Youtube) that explains how this stuff works?

Once again, there's a lot of factors, and it always goes both ways. In a way, Hollywood is a soulless greed machine, but it also helps artistic vision to a certain extent. For starters, Hollywood will never fund a guaranteed flop. Lars Von Trier has a huge following, and anyone who funds his films knows exactly how big this following is, which determines how much money the studios will put into funding his films. Artistic vision and everything aside, I went into this business knowing that at the end of the day, this is a business, this is my career, and despite the fact that I get to make things up, it's my job to do what I have to do to make money. With that said, you can't necessarily compare his films to the top box office hits, because they're not playing in the same ballpark, and they're certainly not getting the same budgets. Whoever funded his film knows what they're getting going in, and they'll end up making a profit on it.

When it comes to sequels and like-minded films coming out left and right, it comes down to the fact that Hollywood is now run by intelligent businessmen, who mostly know nothing about movies. This is both a good and a bad thing. The bad is that sometimes really great work gets passed up because business-minded people don't understand it, but at the same time, there's also more money floating around to make projects because they're better at churning out sure-fire hits. If Hollywood was taken over by diehard, starving artist types, budget would plummet because studios would stop making the money that they do, and great filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, who knows how stay true to his artistic vision and still pump out a mega hit, would be stifled... Imagine if The Dark Night was forced to shoot on a 40 million dollar budget instead of the 200+ million it got. The 200 million dollar version doesn't exist without businessmen make business like decisions.

With that said, yes, there's a lot of crap that gets funneled through because of this -- look at Battleship, which was literally pitched as Transformers in the ocean; executives loved that -- but it also opens the doors for people who are adept at balancing the Hollywood standards with their creative vision. It's a give and take when it comes to writing for the screen because you have to know how to properly connect with people.

But to round it out, for a director like Lars Von Trier, his film will probably "tank" at the box office by normal standards, but the people funding his movie know that already. They'll make their money after the film goes into distribution, most likely overseas.

Hollywood can be considered a soulless greed machine, but in reality they're a business, it's an industry, and they're gambling hundreds of millions of dollars with most films, so a business mindset is needed at the top, so us creative folk can continue doing what we love to do. At the end of the day, it's not something that bothers me, because the money would evaporate if we didn't have them to generate hits -- this is why there's a 60" LED on my wall, surround sound annoying my neighbors while I'm playing either my PS4, Xbox One, or Wii U.

#7 Posted by Master_Live (14405 posts) -

Or maybe he is super rich or maybe he has a super rich friend or maybe he has a super rich benefactor who said "fuck it, I like this guys vision and I'm gonna bank roll him even if I lose money on every film".

#8 Posted by IMAHAPYHIPPO (2568 posts) -

@Master_Live: It's always possible, but not likely. In LA, we love our money. They're making a small fortune on this film.

#9 Posted by Lord_Daemon (24242 posts) -

Actually if I'm not mistaken I do believe that Lars von Trier has little to do with the "Hollywood" machine as most of his funding comes from Dutch and German funding houses which can take gain immediate tax benefits and bonuses for funding artistic projects. But I could be off a bit as it's not an aspect I have much interest in so I'm just going off of the passing article here and there, but that's how Trier's machine works as far as I know.

#10 Posted by SaintLeonidas (26156 posts) -

A Lars Von Trier thread and THIS is what is being discussed? Weak.

#11 Edited by LoG-Sacrament (20397 posts) -

imahapyhippo and daemon have already given good input, but i'll blindly throw in another possible factor: practical effects. i have no idea how von trier shoots his films, but my guess is that he doesn't use a lot of CGI. other directors have shots that look expensive (the drug intake reaction shots in requiem for a dream and the space shots in the tree of life, as examples), but they are really just achieved with chemicals/dyes on petri dishes. recent horror movies spend a bunch of money on trying to make realistic gore with CGI, but you can get better results by buying nasty bits from a local butcher. duncan jones made a (gorgeous) big sci-fi film in 2009 for about $2 million by using miniatures for the spaceships and such. the list goes on.

i swear, a lot of the decisions to use CGI are just out of laziness, haste, or something else that isn't about making the best movie. sure, some of it is (apparently) only possible with CGI. however, look at the the live free or die hard blood fiasco. they shot it mostly without blood to get their PG-13 rating, then went back and CG'd up some blood spray for the unrated cut DVD.

#12 Edited by Maddie_Larkin (6473 posts) -

As for the Funding, well he is funded by the Danish goverment, aswell as from the EU (two seperate incomes in a somewhat odd case, since that Means double funded). Reasoning being that while his movies rarely see a return on Investment (and they seem to be expensive at times, so a good deal of Money lost there), the Trier name does hold some value in its own right, as it have directly or indirectly helped more Danish actors and writers getting a hold on the international markets.

Edit: And for effects , then I think he would strongly dislike the usage of cgi, he is a man WHO cares ALOT about the art of cinematography afterall. A personal interrest of his I belive, most of his movies play around with different ways of filming, so I suppose we could say that he takes a bit after Hitchcock. While done since I am unsure if there was a movie like Europa which had a huge imphathis on backgrounds and foregrounds, Black/White and colour. If I remember correctly the actors also were represented in a nearly two dimentional almost comicbook facion.

#13 Posted by destinhpark (4737 posts) -

I have a very mixed relationship with his movies. Loved "The Idiots." Hated "Antichrist." Loved "Melancholia." Hated "Dogville."

I am excited to see the "Nymphomaniac" films though. They look pretty solid.

#14 Posted by lamprey263 (23501 posts) -

I've only seen a handful of his films but I liked each one, Dancer In the Dark was pretty good. I only saw Antichrist when it was like a cable pay-per-view movie, had one of those theater / cable dual releases. Crazy film though. I saw Dogville but not it's sequel Manderlay.

But by saying "liked" I found them rewarding to watch, but I've no real reason to want to watch them again.

I also remember watching The Kingdom series on VHS many years ago, he did that too, but I never saw the other half of it.

#15 Posted by Aljosa23 (24841 posts) -

Not reading this discussion but one aspect is that a lot of arthouse films don't spend millions on marketing budgets; they create their own through word of mouth. A lot of the budgets these days go towards stuff like marketing and merchandise.