Earlier in the week, we were treated to the rumor that Martin Scorsese was open to remaking Taxi Driver with Lars Von Trier. That turned out to be wrong. Probably. Yes. Most likely. Definitely. But it was just enough to make Devin Faraci over at CHUD salivate over the possibility of Von Trier torturing Scorsese the same way he tortured Jorgen Leth in The Five Obstructions (which you may remember from our 30 Best of the Decade List).
In the film, Von Trier takes his idol and runs him through a gauntlet of remaking his own masterpiece five different times using five different obstacles or strict guidelines.
That won’t happen with Taxi Driver, but it did get us thinking about what films would be great for Lars Von Trier to work his magic on, which directors for him to challenge and put through the ringer.
As a bonus, we have offered our own first obstruction for each, just to get the creative juices flowing. Ten master filmmakers. Ten early masterpieces. Ten major challenges.
So without further ado and without unnecessary explanation for this convoluted idea, Landon Palmer and I present our 10 Films We’d Like to See Lars Von Trier Force Their Directors To Remake Under Strict Guidelines That Are Meant to Challenge Them Creatively:
(In no particular order).
Terrance Malick’s Days of Heaven
Why Him: Malick can be a polarizing figure – audiences either see his films as poetic or insufferable. I view his work from the standpoint of the former category, as Malick captures detailed nature and human naturalism in subtle ways that few filmmakers have. In making only four films in as many decades, Malick has established a powerfully influential signature style, but one rooted in repeated uses of dialogue and patterns of shooting and editing in this film. In Malick, Von Trier would find a specimen worthy of being shaken out of his artful corner in the aggressive, confrontational way that only Von Trier can do it.
The Obstruction: Von Trier would have Malick remake the “Swarm of Locusts” scene from Days of Heaven, but force the improvisatory, endless-take-prone Malick to do so with only thirty minutes of film. And Malick won’t be allowed to use voice-over narration at any point. Oh, and here’s the kicker: the entire sequence has to be shot indoors. -LP
Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless
Why Him: Because he’s still alive. Godard has continued his film career the past few decades without fail, though his selected canon for the Criterion Collection would suggest otherwise as he hasn’t released a film commercially in the US in possibly several decades. But word from across the Atlantic says his work is just as envelope-pushing and cinema-worshipping as ever. As co-founder of the New Wave, Godard is exactly the type of manifesto-writing filmmaker Von Trier imitated when he made Dogme 95. Von Trier no doubt sees himself as the type of venerated, world-class arthouse filmmaker that Godard realized himself to be.
The Obstruction: Von Trier and Godard have spent their whole careers trying to disrupt the passive viewing habits we’ve cultivated through watching Hollywood movies, so Von Trier’s task for Godard would be to basically commit personal ideological heresy by reshooting any scene from Breathless as if it were a classical Hollywood film. If Godard can’t make his film indistinguishable from the styles of, say, John Huston or Howard Hawks, he has to endure the wrath of Von Trier. -LP
David Fincher’s Se7en
Why Him: Fincher is one of the greatest living directors, but he’s also notorious for being an insane person. He rolls take after take at OCD levels of perfectionism whether he’s forcing a stuntman to fling himself down some stairs or wanting just the right amount of sunlight to hit an actor’s face. He also asks for the impossible technologically, and he usually gets it.
The Obstruction: Von Trier would probably admire the insanity and perfection of Fincher’s visuals, but he wouldn’t hesitate to challenge him by forcing him to remake the final “What’s in the Box?” scene in Se7en in the mumblecore style. No script, no plan, no definitive look. And he only gets one take to get it right. Whatever “right” might mean at the time. -CA
Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango In Paris
Why Him: Bertolucci is a relic, he is (like Godard) one of the last of the great European art filmmakers from the 60s and 70s. Like Von Trier, Bertolucci hasn’t let age lessen his ability to provoke, as he continues to make confrontational films like The Dreamers which prove to be just as challenging in their content (if not as impactful) as his 70s work. Both Von Trier and Bertolucci are known for staging explicit and sometimes disturbing sex scenes, which makes Bertolucci the perfect subject for Von Trier to venerate and then, of course, torture.
The Obstruction: Reshoot the famous “Butter” scene from Last Tango in Paris, but in a way that would give it only a PG rating. Bertolucci has tried for decades to get the uncut version of Last Tango to receive an R rating without success, so with self-imposed censorship, Von Trier would make Bertolucci face his greatest challenge. -LP
Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands
Why Him: As iconic as he is, he has also fallen into the deepest rut of any modern master filmmaker. He uses the same actors, the same score (since Danny Elfman has also fallen into a rut), and he uses the same tones, themes, and color schemes. It’s a shame that we consider a man exploring the color palette he loves as becoming a parody of himself, but it would also be great to see his boundaries pushed to the limit.
The Obstruction: There’s no better way to break the cycle than to place Burton under the stringent rules of filming Edward Scissorhands (the whole damned thing) as a Dogme 95 movie. Which was conveniently co-invented by Von Trier himself. The rules are simple:
- Filming done on location with all props occurring naturally in the location.
- Sound has to occur naturally in the scene as well (nothing added in post).
- A handheld camera must be used.
- The film must be in color, but can’t use any special lighting.
- No optical work or filters.
- There can’t be any artificial action (like someone pretending to kill someone else. All actions must actually be done).
- The film has to take place in the present, in the location it’s shot at.
- It must be transferred or shot in 35mm.
And, of course, the final two rules are the worst for Burton
- No genre movies.
- The director can’t be credited.
Let’s see if that pulls him out of his rut. -CA