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Playing the Waves

Playing the Waves: Lars von Trier's Game Cinema

Jan Simons
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Playing the Waves
    Book Description:

    Dogma95 has been heralded as the European alternative to the Hollywood Blockbuster. For many critics and film lovers, Dogma95 and Von Trier's films have become synonymous with the notions usually associated with independent film making: low budgets and realism. Von Trier's approach to film making, however, takes cinema beyond the traditional confines of film aesthetics and radically transposes the practice of film making and film itself right into what has become the paramount genre of new media: games and gaming. Dogma 95, this book argues, is not an exceptional phase in Von Trier's carreer - as it was for his cofounders - but the most explicit formulation of Von Trier's cinematic games aesthetics, that has guided the conception and production of all of his films. The launching of Dogma95 and the infamous Dogma Manifesto was a game; Von Trier redefines the practice of film making as a rule bound activity, he brings forms and structures of games to bear on his films, and he draws some sobering lessons from economic and evolutionary game theory. Von Trier's films can be better understood from the perspective of games studies and game theory than from the point of view of traditional film theory and film aesthetics. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0174-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 7-10)

    It took longer to get this book published than it took Lars von Trier to produce and release Manderlay and, by the time this book will be published, The Boss of it All and Wasington (sic). This difference in pace between the two media is, of course, to the disadvantage of the slower medium of print, which can hardly keep pace with the much faster audiovisual media. However, as former soccer player and coach Johan Cruijff always says, ‘With every disadvantage comes an advantage’. The time it took to get the manuscript published provided the opportunity to include a final...

  4. 1 Manifesto and Modernism
    (pp. 11-32)

    It is an open question whether Dogma 95 would have become a controversial international movement, and whether the first four Dogma films would have attracted the attention of the public, press and critics outside of Denmark, were it not for the document published in 1995, three years before the first Dogma film Festen had its world premiere at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival: the infamous Dogma 95 Manifesto. Still, the converse is also true: in the absence of Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen and Lars von Trier’s Idioterne, both of which were presented that year at Cannes,¹ it would have been difficult...

  5. 2 The Name of this Game is Dogma 95
    (pp. 33-52)

    Because Dogma 95 presented its rules in the puritan and moralistic form of a Vow of Chastity, and the Brethren originally gave Dogma certificates to filmmakers who had followed the rules (and who had properly owned up to the occasional transgression), the rules were wielded by many critics and journalists as a checklist with which to determine how ‘Dogmatic’ a Dogma film really was. This eventually led to an absolutism in which the rules were held to be the only measure of the ‘true’ Dogma film.

    In the spirit of modernist manifestos, which, not coincidentally, had always displayed a predilection...

  6. 3 Filming the Game
    (pp. 53-78)

    If the Dogma 95 Manifesto is regarded not as a parody but more literally as a game, it acquires more coherence and meaningfulness than classical and modern film theory have thus far been able to give it. The game of Dogma 95 operates at all levels and comprises all four game categories –agôn(competition),mimicri(simulation),alea(chance) enilinx(vertigo) – distinguished by the game theorist Roger Caillois (1977):²

    The Manifesto itself, its presentation in Paris in 1995, its rhetoric and tone, and the Vow of Chastity’s ten commandments are a parodic form ofmimicri, the game pattern...

  7. 4 Virtual Explorations: Journeys to the End of the Night
    (pp. 79-104)

    The extremely popular Danish television series The Kingdom, Idioterne and the Dogma 95 Manifesto are generally regarded as representing a break in von Trier’s work. The last two have even been described as a ‘calculated career shift’ and as wilful ‘career-icide’ (see Stevenson 2003: 69). If the rules of the Vow of Chastity had been intended to free filmmakers from ‘the oppressive apparatus of “major motion picture” filmmaking with its big money, big crews, big pressures and big temptations’ (Stevenson 2002: 104), then they might have been written for von Trier. With Dogma 95 and Idioterne, von Trier did indeed...

  8. 5 The Leader of the Game
    (pp. 105-124)

    Just as von Trier’s ‘naturalistic’ Dogma film Idioterne was seen as a radical break with his earlier, highly stylised proofs of cinematographic mastery, the films he made after Idioterne were seen as a radical break with the Dogma aesthetic. For instance, film critic Rodriguez (2004) wrote that Dogma 95 ‘championed naturalistic filmmaking with no artificial lights or sounds’, while Simon Spiegel (2003) wrote of Dogville: ‘(Der) Regieexzentriker von Trier geht also nach seinem Dogma-Experiment einmal mehr daran, das Kino radikal neu zu erfinden’ and called Dogville ‘das krasse Gegenteil des Dogma-Naturalismus’. It was no doubt partly the result of the...

  9. 6 Between Cinema and Computer
    (pp. 125-154)

    Chapter 4 described how von Trier’s films are characterised by a remarkable paradox. His pre-Dogma films such as The Element of Crime and Europa show us purely virtual worlds constructed out of lighting effects and physically impossible space-time relationships. Nevertheless, the images we see in these virtual worlds are photographic depictions of the situations that existed during the film shooting, in front of the camera lens. The lighting effects in both films, the multi-perspectivist spaces, the double exposure and overlay effects, and the physically impossible movements in Europa were not done in post-production but were achieved on-set during filming with...

  10. 7 Between Hollywood and Copenhagen
    (pp. 155-178)

    Modular narration, narrators as players, characters as avatars, distributed representation and virtual realism: in almost every conceivable regard, von Trier’s films fall outside the paradigm of the classical and the modern film. But as registrations and partial models – the correlate of distributed representation (see chapter 6) – they also do not fit into the paradigm of virtual reality, which aims at the viewer’s total immersion inimagescapesthat are as full and as photorealistic as possible (see Bolter and Grusin 1999: 162). Von Trier’s films are certainly remediated by new, computer-based media such as virtual realities, computer games and...

  11. 8 The Name of the Game: Punish or Perish
    (pp. 179-202)

    Von Trier’s films may have more in common with the aesthetics of new media in general and computer games in particular than with cinematic modes like those of European art movies, but what exactly does this entail? All of von Trier’s films tell stories with a beginning, a middle and an end (and even in that order), they all relate the tragic fates of hapless heroes and heroines, and spectators cannot intervene in the inexorable course of events depicted by these films, nor can they determine or influence the choices of their protagonists. Instead, spectators are forced to watch powerlessly...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 203-222)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-236)
  14. Index of Names
    (pp. 237-242)
  15. Index of Film Titles
    (pp. 243-246)
  16. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 247-252)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-255)