Provocative Danish director Lars von Trier has made some brilliant films and some very stupid comments. So it comes as no big surprise that his latest project, an innovative user-generated film competition entitled "Gesamt," comes with a caveat.
Von Trier is known for films like "Antichrist" and "Melancholia" -- works as devastatingly stunning as they are emotionally devastating. At Cannes last year, he made waves during a press conference by stating, when he said: "I understand much about [Hitler], and I sympathize with him a little bit." While the New York Times referred to the statement as "jokingly" spoken, Von Trier's upcoming project casts more doubt upon this hope.
When expressing frustrations with the co-producers of "Melancholia," von Trier relayed his feelings to the Guardian: "If you are so g*ddamn clever, why the f**k don't you do the film yourself?" Now he challenges the public to do just that, sans expletives.
The competition invites ordinary people from around the world to respond to six great works of art through a five minute film or video piece. The works will be made into a single cohesive film directed by Jenle Hallund and will debut October 12 in Copenhagen. "Gesamt," which translates to "coming together," challenges the public to reinterpret big artworks in any way they wish. The resulting synthesis will create a multivalent collage of the world's creativity in a single work of art; in Hallund's words, "it has the potential to reveal the health of a civilization by exposing its soul."
Sounds like a rare opportunity for the entire world to cooperate and create together, yes? Only one small thing, one of the six artists von Trier calls the public to reinterpret is Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect. Movieline asked Halland if she thinks von Trier's inclusion of Speer harkened back to his Cannes comments. She responded "I can't speak on his behalf, but if you look at some of Speers' art, it is phenomenal, and I would say that it is possible to appreciate his art independent of the ideology."
Although Halland and von Trier may regard Speer's architecture as "phenomenal," this is hardly the general consensus. Nicolai Ourossouroff at the New York Times, for example, recalled Speer's work quite negatively in comparison to the Freedom Tower, writing, "it is, sadly, fascinating in the way that Albert Speer's architectural nightmares were fascinating: as expressions of the values of a particular time and era."
The other artists and artworks von Trier offers as inspiration are far less controversial, including James Joyce's novel "Ulysses," August Strindberg's play "The Father," Paul Gauguin's painting "Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?", and French Composer César Franck's improvisations and Sammy Davis Jr.'s songs. Participants are invited to take inspiration from these works of art and may submit their five-minute masterpieces online before September 6. Material will be selected for the full film by October 2, and the film will debut the 12th.
What do you think, readers? Is the inclusive spirit of this project unnecessarily shadowed by Hitler's main architect? Should Speer's work be acknowledged independently of its political past? Or is von Trier sticking his middle finger out at the whole world, just like he always does? Let us know in the comments below.