Lars Von Trier’s Paintings References

When Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist premiered in Cannes Film Festival, the director said he was the best director in the world. His arrogance is one of the many things that makes me love him, and despite you agree or disagree with me, you can’t deny the man is definitely a genius and probably one of the best directors in the world alive. His movies are not only transgressive but smart, intense and unique, with references that come from the best, like Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman.

And speaking of references, I’ve been finding several paintings over the internet that seem to have something to deal with some scenes from Von Trier’s work.  While some are pretty obvious, some others are not that much. Because of that, I decided to put them together, so check it out:

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Ophelia by John Everett Millais | Melancholia (2011)

Millai’s Ophelia is the most common reference when people talk about Lars Von Trier and paintings. The work made in 1851 portraying the Shakespeare play Hamlet, was clearly an inspiration for the poster of the film, a scene that also appears during some seconds throughout the prologue of Melancholia.

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The Return of the Hunters by Pieter Bruegel | Melancholia (2011)

During one of the many odd scenes from Melancholia, Justine enters a room and starts seeing some art books, which we can see Pieter Bruegel’s painting in one of them. This reference is not very clear, but several theories lie around in the meaning of this scene. According to specialists, this painting is rather strange because even though it’s a winter picture, it has no religious element and contains some elements of death. Would this scene mean Justine appreciating the insignificance of her life? The question is open to interpretations.

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Orgastic Women by André Derain | Antichrist (2009)

André Derain is a painter that uses a lot of colorful colors so is kind of weird that this painting in particular, is very dark. What is not so weird, though, is the similarity between his painting to the scene where Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Defoe have sex under a tree in Antichrist. Especially because the painting itself is called Orgastic Women. Lars Von Trier’s entire film looks like several paintings that are slowly moving, so I wouldn’t doubt the existence of this reference.

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Wind Fallen Trees by Ivan I. Shishkin | Antichrist (2009)

Antichrist is a pagan version of Adam and Eve in Eden, where the female character embraces her true nature and claims nature is the house of the devil. Because of that, the forest in Lars Von Trier’s film is very dark and somewhat supernatural, where a lot of dream sequences take places. The reference comes from Ivan I. Shishkin work made in 1888. Not only the colors and shape but also the trees itself, which gains several meanings through the Trilogy of Depression, composed by Antichrist, Melancholia and Nymphomaniac.

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The Dying Artist by Zygmunt Andrychiewicz | Nymphomaniac (2013)

I’ve found this reference in a tumblr, so it may just be a coincidence. The similarities, however, are huge. And Nymphomaniac being a film full of meanings, I wouldn’t doubt this room comes from this paintings, especially because in Andrychiewicz’s work, “the doctor” is portrayed by death who plays the violin. The music in Nymphomaniac, as long as many other elements,  lays a very important part in one of its chapters.

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Thérèse on a Bench Seat by Balthus | Nymphomaniac (2013)

Lars von Trier may have done a parody of sexual education classes or he may have stolen some of the sexual works by Balthus, which most of them portrays a girl with open legs. There is another poster of the movie with the whole cast where we can see some of the characters in positions where you can find some references to Balthus work, so I wouldn’t doubt this scene comes from the painting above.

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The Barque of Dante by Eugène Delacroix | The House That Jack Built (2018)

Probably one of Lars Von Trier’s most explicit references since Melancholia‘s poster, The House That Jack Built is not only one of Von Trier’s latest controversial works but also a trip to hell with Virgil from the Divine Comedy. To reproduce Delacroix painting is not only incredibly beautiful but also the proof that Lars has clearly been using paintings as references in his films.

7 thoughts on “Lars Von Trier’s Paintings References

  1. Great article! I really enjoyed, but Von Trier doesn’t really think he’s the best director in the world, i mean, he might as well be, but he doesn’t see himself as that. That statement at the Cannes festival, was just part of his very twisted sense of humor, just like the nazi comment a few years later. In the more quiet and less public interviews, yo can see he is a really humble man, and you can also see that in his films, if he had that supposed level of arrogance he wouldn’t be able to go that deep into such profound topics, and much lees treat them in such a beautiful, poetic and raw way.

    I really liked the article, just that i hate people think his like that, i just love the guy haha

  2. Could you update with the references in The House that Jack Built? I know there are a few, but would like to see it from someone more knowledgeable.

  3. Really helpful article. I’ve been trying to run to ground all of the references at the opening of Melancholia. In addition to those given Gericault’s “Horse frightened by lightening” seems to be used. Was interested to see Balthus mentioned re. Nymphomaniac since I have a suspicion that one of his works also features in this sequence.

  4. Get your facts straight idiot. The title you attribute to Hunters by Brueghel is wrong and this work is often used to reference a specific thing but not telling you because of your arrogance

    1. How astonishingly rude and arrogant!! For your information since you are obviously ignorant of the facts, the Breughel painting is commonly known by two different titles (the one given at the article opening and also “The Hunters in the Snow”). Before attacking contributors in such a discourteous and ill-mannered fashion perhaps it’s you who ought to check your information.

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