Dans les Cahiers de mai 2006, dans une petite nouvelle sur le nouveau dogme de Lars Von Trier (j'en parlais ici), Jean-Michel Frodon concluait son article ainsi:
«Le numéro 48 de la revue 1895 vient de publier un dossier complet, quoique comme toujours prenant trop au sérieux l'opération Dogma, sous la signature de Claire Chatelet. Il comporte les principaux documents relatifs au geste transgressif et canulardesque réussi par LvT en 1995».
Étonné par ce jugement, j'ai voulu en savoir davantage. J'ai donc écrit à M. Frodon qui a été assez gentil pour prendre le temps de me répondre. Il n'a jamais eu l'occasion de développer sa pensée à ce sujet dans les Cahiers, mais en a précisé un peu les contours dans le cadre d'une interview pour un magazine russe. On remarque aisément que, de part et d'autre, l'anglais n'est pas leur langue maternelle, il faut donc être indulgent. Je présume que les rédacteurs russes allaient traduire l'interview en russe de toute manière.
Magazine russe: 1. Nowadays (since the mid-90s) von Trier enjoys a solid reputation as one of the most influential legislators in world cinema and as one of the most effective revolutionists in cinema language. Do you consider this reputation to be accurate? Does von Trier have any equal contemporary rivals in this "field"? And do you think that this reputation will extend to the future, verified by cinema historians and fixed in a Big Cinema History?
Jean-Michel Frodon: I really believe there is a misunderstanding, originally triggered by LVT himself, which eventually turned against him. I thing Dogma was mainly an efficient public relations operation much more than an aesthetic turning point. It did succeed in the way it attracted attention, first when it was launched, during the Centennial of cinema at Odéon Theatre in Paris, amidst a hundred plus well known directors and a host of media people (I was there), but also because not only is LVT a skillful user of media effects, he is also an excellent film director. He was so before the Dogma period (see "Epidemic"!), he was so during it, and still is now. The Dogma thing was not only an example of mediatic efficiency in its appearance but it also succeeded in defending a rather vague but correct "modern" New Wave style of cinema. That was accomplished in a region, not only in Denmark but also in Scandinavia, where most directors, producers and film schools are under the major influence of TV Drama and Hollywood-like patterns. It was healthy and it did exert to a certain extent a positive influence on a small number of other Scandinavian films, but that aspect had not much to do with LVT's own talent.
2.Has von Trier's position (artistic, human, moral, intellectual, other) radically transformed in the 00s in comparison with 90s? Is his "American trilogy" a denial of his "Golden Hearts trilogy" - or is it only a necessary logical antithesis? Or rather, an organic extension of his work?
J.-M. F.: I believe he is basically doing the same thing. On a certain level, I often compare him with philosophical stories tellers of the 18th and 19th Century (like Volataire's tales, or Daniel Defoe or Jonathan Swift), with deep moral questions put at work, not with litterature means like the previous but with cinematic means. Of course, LVT does question these means as well, it's obvious in Idiots, in Breaking the Waves as well as in the American Trilogy. I regard this as both daring and honnest. And, naturally, these approaches have to evolve, sometimes to go about in a completely different way at what has been attempted before. But there is one point I'd like to stress here: though LVT is dealing with important issues, he has a wonderful sens of humour and I am always amazed at how seriously his films are still looked at and commented. I remember that during the screening of Dancing in the Dark, I was laughing a lot during the last part and when the lights came back on everybody was crying, something I found quite weird.
3.Do you see any connections (parallels, contradictions, echoes) between von Trier's aesthetics and the modern technological (digital) revolution in world cinema, including commercial type of the latter? For example, are his formal exercises is a part of world cinema cult of formality - so natural in digital era?
J.-M. F.: May I remind first that Dogma orders to use only 35 mm? Each use of each technique, analogical or digital, is always very specific, there are, as far as I know, only two specific uses of the digital cameras in his work, in Idiots and Dancing in the Dark. There is a lot more of that elsewhere, but Kiarostami did not steal from LVT, nor did Larry Clark, Jia Zhangke or Alain Cavalier. So I am afraid that beyond the anecdotic use of carried by hand light camera or use of multiple cameras, there are only superficial effects of LVT attempts, which is quite logical, his choices being always directly related to a specific project.
4. Can one say that a Dogma aesthetic (with the exception of moral messages) could only come to be within a protestant culture? And what do you think - in this context - about relations between von Trier's and Dardennes' works?
J.-M. F.: I think that relations between catholicism and protestantism is an important issue in LVT's cinema as shows his recurrent questionning about the grace (remember the name of the American Trilogy's heroin?). And yes, this might echo the religious aspect of the Dardenne's cinema, especially with the carrying of the Cross-like finales of all their films. On the other hand, as I said before, I don't believe there really is a Dogma aesthetic (ultimatly, the unique exemple would probably be "Festen", not a LVT film - and a film I did not like much, I must say). The modernity of LVT's cinematographic language has much to do with Bresson, Welles, Rohmer and Minnelli. None of them are protestant, so so I don’t really see the point.