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»Self-censorship is the worst.«

Lars von Trier in Conversation with Mehdi Belhaj Kacem & Raphaëlle Milone

Published: 25.10.2018


We land in Copenhagen after only an hour’s sleep the previous night. We travel a long way by subway to a residential area on the edge of the city: large houses with gardens and woodland, almost no one around. We finally find the address we’ve been given. We approach the house through the garden, and we’re immediately in a film by Lars von Trier: a black limousine, a small shack that might be an office with a computer and piles of paper. A narrow path leads to the front door. The door is open.

The figure becomes apparent of an old, unkempt samurai, barefoot, with stout legs in Bermuda shorts. It soon becomes obvious that the house is almost empty. The home of an ascetic without any luxury; just a few Flemish old masters and the limousine seen outside. A terrace gives out onto a wonderful view in subdued light, both sublime and depressing. A lucent burgeoning like in Melancholia.

Our interlocutor tells us he too hasn’t slept for more than an hour. He needs a long time for the kindly offered coffee.

RM: Thank you very much.

LVT puts the DVD of India Song by Marguerite Duras next to the cup of coffee.

LVT: Have you seen this film?

MBK: India Song? Of course!

RM: India Song!

LVT: Look at the river out there. It looks a bit like the river that wasn’t in India.

MBK: It’s a very strange film.

LVT: It’s a great film.

MBK: The best howl ever heard in the history of cinema.

RM: And the song is amazing. In French you call it a litanie (she whistles).

LVT: Yes, yes, it’s a beautiful song.

RM: We should rather sleep and listen to India Song.

MBK: Hypnosis.

RM: Maybe we would talk in our sleep, and it will make a better interview.

LVT: Yes.

MBK: An interview with no censorship.

LVT: Don’t worry about that.

MBK: So, shall we start?

LVT: I’m all yours.

MBK: The first question is simple: what does the word “censorship” say to you?

LVT: Well, I don’t have an example of where censorship has been good. I understand why people try, but to my mind censorship is ridiculous. It’s just like … we have an expression in Danish: when you use a broom, you take the carpet down and you just sweep the dust under the carpet.

RM: You know...

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