Björk vs Lars

There was certainly something very worrying about Bjork’s performance as the martyr, Selma. As von Trier said, she was not acting, but feeling. The shoot ended up in open warfare between director and star.

Lars became cruel and manipulative and that was unnecessary because we had something really, really gorgeous that had taken off and taken its own life. All we had to do was protect it and make sure no one disturbed it. I think he got scared and he got quite cruel in the last month, and that was what I did not agree with.

Did he shout and scream ?

I do not think you have to scream to be cruel. I think you can watch that film and you can see. If you had never heard the rumours about what happened on set and just saw the film, I think it is very obvious that I was suffering.

As far as the story goes, Bjork believes there was a way to redeem Selma’s suffering, by raising her sacrifice to a beatific level. It should have seemed, by the end, that the world could no longer hurt her. And this, at least, would have made the film truer to the dreamy genre of musical.

Instead everyone walked out of that movie feeling miserable and they felt miserable for one or two days. I don’t think that is necessary. I think if Selma reached that saint-like elevation you would have walked out of that cinema feeling miraculous. She still died but you would have felt ’up’.

It is that tiny little detail where we disagreed. When this plant we planted became too big he began to chop it down. I think it was fear, if you ask me. I think it is some sort of minority complex. You are an artist and you should believe in your work and let it stand for what it is. You don’t need to put extra pain and suffering in there just so that the critics will say, ’This is art.’

I think it is rubbish.


It is important to me to defend myself that I am collaborative. My father is a union leader. He fights for the lowest paid. I am very anti-authority. I am anti-control and I think people should work together. When I get into projects I roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. I have been doing it for 20 years. I am very collaborative in my work. I celebrate creative, idiosyncratic people, and I go out of my way to work with them. But if they offend my sense of justice then I will speak. I will not shut my mouth up. I do not think it is necessary to abuse people, to manipulate people to get art. I think it is a myth. I don’t think to be a good director you have to be cruel.

Evening Standard , 15 August 2001