Playing with our emotions: genre, realism and reflexivity in the films of Lars von Trier

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Ditzian, Tamar
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According to reviewers, bloggers, and scholars, Lars von Trier’s films, particularly Dancer in the Dark (2000) and Dogville (2003) tend to evoke multiple intense, often contradictory, emotional responses from viewers. The films’ dialectical effects can perhaps be explained by the fact that they broadcast their artifice, which results in a seeming break in the audience’s emotional immersion. The question that this thesis seeks to explore is how the films can simultaneously distance and engage viewers. Generic theories, as well as theories on emotion and film reception, are useful in exposing von Trier’s emotive strategies. In the end, it might be that von Trier endeavours to evoke emotions in viewers while also making us aware of his manipulations in order to suggest that as spectators we must constantly question the film and its creator. More troublingly, he implies that there might be something fundamentally perverse about our desire to watch films.
Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, Lars von Trier, affect, cinema, Brecht, melodrama, genre