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Lars von Trier  (Director - 'Manderlay') Lars von Trier (Director - 'Manderlay')

'Building A Bridge To Manderlay!'

'Manderlay,' Lars von Trier's latest slice of America-baiting provocation, star's Ron Howard's daughter, Bryce, as Grace, the character played by Nicole Kidman in 'Dogville.' A politically-incorrect exploration of race and democracy in the United States, the film was lambasted by American critics when it premiered in Cannes last year, but a weary von Trier was unrepentant.

Catching up with the Danish director, he talked more about America, sex, and democracy.

Were you looking for a different style from 'Dogville' with this? "No. I would say that the DP got a little too free a hand in making beautiful pictures here - it was not easy to stop him. I will do that the next time because I'm not too crazy when it gets too aesthetical. It's a bigger stage we have this time. We couldn't afford to have different backdrops so we had only a black backdrop. On the other hand, we had a white floor and used much more theatrical lighting. I like that the light changes like in the theatre."

Did you have contact with Ron Howard, because he is quite protective of his daughter? "I think I talked to him once. I talked to Bryce's mother a couple of times, and she's probably also quite protective. They read the script, you know, and yeah, he did not forbid her."

Has he seen the film yet? "Bryce says he has."

Did he like it? "She claims so, but she's very nice. I think it was maybe a little hard for him to find out that his daughter was almost grown up, or as grown up as she was."

Can you comment on her nude sex scene in this movie? "I would love to comment," he states, all too excitedly for a moment. "What do you want to know?"

It seems like you changed your point of view since 'Dogville' because the narrator in this is quite ironic about it. Is that a new take on sex? "Maybe I'm just a dirty old man now," he laughs. "I don't know. The sex in this film is in the story because it collides with the political ideas. In The Idiots, for instance, it didn't, it was part of it. I kind of liked that Grace really had problems. It was really not politically correct for her that there should be something about domination in her erotic fantasies, because that's not good at all, and she wanted to do it so that she could get on with being idealistic. I kind of thought that was funny. Especially the chickens, I liked very much."

You have said that Grace is stupid and idealistic. Are you describing Americans who want to impose democracy? "It depends on what you want, you know? I'm sure that the Americans that want to spread their values have more than one reason to do that, and so has Grace, probably. But if you want to do the right thing for the people then I think that might be a little naïve, the way she is doing it, and probably also the way the Americans are doing it. But they also, I'm sure, have other motives that might not be stupid at all. I'm not suggesting that their motives are evil, but there might be other motives than just the well-being of the people of Iraq, for instance."

Do you think Bush is idealistic? "I don't think you can have a job like his without really thinking that what you're doing is right. I'm sure Hitler thought what he was doing was right and good. So I'm quite sure! But it doesn't excuse anything."

How do you define freedom? The film appears to suggest that a kind of freedom is possible even under a dictatorship if people are allowed to live according to their natures. Is that something the film is saying? "I believe in democracy, I must say. But again, how do I define freedom? We all probably define it differently. If you are hungry and have to use all the hours of the day to feed your children, then you would probably be rather less free, you know, politically and mentally," he laughs again. "So freedom means a lot of things. And also there are some things that are unfree that we submit to willingly. Being together, two people, we, of course, are less free than we would be if we were alone. But we like to be less free because we need each other."

Americans get angry that you do these films without ever having been to the United States. Will you come here some day? "I'm not planning to. I have a problem with aeroplanes and ships. But when they build a bridge, I will, absolutely!"

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