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(Credit: Zentropa Entertainments)


From Ingmar Bergman to Stanley Kubrick: Lars von Trier's 21 favourite films of all time


“My films are about ideals that clash with the world.” – Lars Von Trier

Lars von Trier, a prolific yet controversial film director, is now established as a fully-fledged master of the cinematic shock factor as his work so relentlessly displays.

Von Trier’s breakthrough film, The Element of Crime, arrived in 1984 to wide critical acclaim. The project would go on to receive twelve awards at seven different international festivals and pick up a nomination for the prestigious Palme d’Or. The film, it’s safe to say, set up decades of controversial debates for Von Trier in defence of his work.

Prolifically incorporating themes of existential crisis, pushing the boundaries of social acceptance in the sphere of mental health and extreme violence, Von Trier’s films such as Dogville, Antichrist and, more recently, The House That Jack Built, have pushed the viewer’s staying power to the absolute limit.

“Perhaps the only difference between me and other people is that I’ve always demanded more from the sunset,” Von Trier said of his direction. “More spectacular colours when the sun hit the horizon. That’s perhaps my only sin.”

He added: “I think it’s important that we all try to give something to this medium, instead of just thinking about what is the most efficient way of telling a story or making an audience stay in a cinema.”

Having famously attempted to recreate his cinematic vision from a young age, most notably when he completed his somewhat strange stop motion cartoon film at the age of 11, Von Trier has been able to gather inspiration and influence from a wide-ranging source of work created by his colleagues past and present.

When speaking about those who inspired him, Von Trier once commented: “Watching Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon is a pleasure, like eating a very good soup,” Von Trier said, adding: “The good thing is that Kubrick always sets his standards. Barry Lyndon, to me, is a masterpiece.”

He added: “He casts in a very strange way, Kubrick. It is a very strange cast. But that is how the film should be, of course. The narration in my films Manderlay and Dogville is definitely inspired by Barry Lyndon, and the narration there is this ironical voice, this whole chapter thing, the feeling there are chapters. I have done that in Dogville and Manderlay and to some extent in Breaking the Waves. It is all Kubrick.”

Below, see a list of 21 films that Von Trier has referenced over the years as pictures that have influenced him. Expect to see the likes of Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky, Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman and more.

Lars von Trier’s favourite films:

  • India Song – Marguerite Duras, 1975.
  • The Mirror – Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975.
  • The Good and the Bad – Jørgen Leth, 1975.
  • The Perfect Human – Jørgen Leth, 1968.
  • The Night Porter – Liliana Cavani, 1974.
  • In Search of the Castaways – Robert Stevenson, 1962.
  • Billy Liar – John Schlesinger, 1963.
  • Journey to Italy – Roberto Rossellini, 1954.
  • La Notte – Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961.
  • Arabian Nights – Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1974.
  • The Canterbury Tales – Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1972.
  • The Lady from Shanghai – Orson Welles, 1947.
  • Touch of Evil – Orson Welles, 1958.
  • Providence – Alain Resnais, 1977.
  • Gertrud – Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1964.
  • Barry Lyndon – Stanley Kubrick, 1975.
  • Smiles of a Summer Night – Ingmar Bergman, 1955.
  • Wild Strawberries – Ingmar Bergman, 1957.
  • Through a Glass Darkly – Ingmar Bergman, 1961.
  • West Side Story – Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise, 1961.
  • Singin’ in the Rain – Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, 1952.

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