Marina Abramovic is officially desperate to the point that she has begged Lars Von Triers to direct her film ‘Seven Death’. She did that in an open letter televised on Swedish public service broadcaster SVT: “Dear Mr Lars von Trier, I think you are the most disturbing director on this planet and this is why I’d really, really love to work with you.”
You can watch her video appeal here. Abramovic says she first became interested in the Danish director after viewing his 1996 release Breaking the Waves, a depressing story where the long-suffering and abused female lead brutally dies. The film gave Abramovic many sleepless nights, but while that would dissuade most from wanting to work with the director, Abramovic herself is already known for her durational works of performance art.
Her last piece, 512 Hours, saw people queue round the block so that Abramovic could alternately whisper in their ear or lead them around the Serpentine Gallery. She did this eight hours a day, for 64 days and it was a flop of embarrassing proportions. However, what makes this partnership specially dreadful is the bad shape in which Von Triers cinema is, at the moment. You can watch my review here.
I happened to be so bored during his last four hour long ‘Nymphomaniac’ that I swore never to see any of his films. That film is the most irritating concoction of intellectual kitsch. In spite of the huge amounts of nudit, the film is spectacularly unsexy, emotionally sterile and almost comically non-arousing. Indeed, being a product of the popularisation of hardcore pornography, the film finally, even belatedly, brings it to the mainstream and -in some ways- to its logical end.
The protagonist of the film (Joe, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) is a self diagnosed nymphomaniac. She fucks everything that moves and with an admirable generosity -quantity is in the film always posed over quality- and we accompany her in this sexual odyssey. The story is neatly packaged: we meet her when she has been severely beaten, before being take care of in a nice flat by the charming old bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) who is virginal and harmless. Like a modern Scheherazade, she tells him (or makes up as she god along) her life story.
Joe is very vocal, often irritatingly so, about the importance of her freedom. Like Marina Abramovic, she talked a a lot about something that we might say should rather be done than discussed. her love of freedom makes her contemptuous of any idea of PC, which she rejects as hypocrisy. But while we listen to all those praises of freedom at any cost, we almost hear von Trier talking through Joe, again -and replying to his critics, stuffing his words into the heroine’s mouth. Something similar does Marina Abramovic with her silences. They are saturated by her own PC.
Von Trier’s last three films -Antichirst, Melancholia and Nymphomaniac- set themselves in opposition to the previous three: Breaking the Waves, Dancing in the Dark and Dogville. The earlier films, which we might call the Trilogy of Saints, all centre on a sensitive young woman who, in order to prover her goodness, goes through hell and then is brutally killed or raped. In Marina Abramovic’s ‘The Death and Life of Marina Abramovic’ we saw her sufferings under the rule of a sadistic mother. This is why she liked ‘Breaking the Waves’. She just identified with their suffering.
However, the twist of Marina Abramovic’s musical was that she was, actually, playing the role of her sadistic mother. In a rather kitsch mise en abime, she appeared as the fictional perpetrator and the real victim, at the same time. This pathologic twist is what makes her step to the fore and ask for Von Trier’s help in Sweden. I am saying this because his three last films try to turn Christian ethics on their head. In Nymphomaniac a woman who abandons her own child becomes a kind of anti-Mary. In Antichrist, the female character, a scholar of medieval witch-hunts realises a belated revenge on the male kind for all the harm caused by men across history. In this way Chaos reigns, because the natural order of the world is male, so its reversal must result in nature’s implosion and general Armagddon. In Anti-Christ and Melancholia, von Trier seemed to be sketching a kind of anti-ethics- of reversed violence in the former and the acceptation of depression and non desire in the latter. If the characters can’t be happy, it’s in a way because they are like gods. They are testing this new anti-ethics and are also its victims. Now, think of Marina Abramovic and voilà! J A T