From Civil to Human Rights

From Civil to Human Rights

Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe

Helle Porsdam

Europeans have attempted for some time to develop a human rights talk and now European intellectuals are talking about the need to construct ‘European narratives’. This book illustrates that these narratives will emphasize a political and cultural vision for a multi-ethnic and more cosmopolitan Europe.

Chapter 9: Transatlantic dialogues on film: the case of Lars von Trier

Helle Porsdam

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights


In March 1995, participating in a conference in Paris on the future of film(s), Lars von Trier presented some new ideas that he had just developed together with a younger colleague, Thomas Vinterberg. These ideas were presented in the shape of a manifesto by the name of DOGME 95. DOGME 95, Trier said in his presentation of the manifesto, represented a collective of film directors, founded in Copenhagen in the spring of 1995, who were of the opinion that ‘a rescue operation’ was needed in order to counter ‘certain tendencies’ in the cinema of today – tendencies embodied most of all in the films made in Hollywood. With this manifesto, Dogme-film was born. What at first seemed like a happening and an ironic comment on the first one hundred years of film – after having read aloud his and Vinterberg’s manifesto, Trier threw a handful of red leaflets with the text of the manifesto printed on them at his audience and then left – quickly became something much more serious. The quasi-religious set of rules, presented as a ‘Vow of Chastity’, came to be taken quite seriously as an exciting attempt at renewing filmic method and technology. What the first one hundred years of film have brought us, Trier and Vinterberg say in their manifesto, is ‘illusions via which emotions can be communicated . . .’ And they continue: Predictability (dramaturgy) has become the golden calf around which we dance. Having the characters’ inner lives justify the plot is too complicated, and not ‘high...

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