Why Danish TV is Better than US TV

Cuz wonderful, inventive, and controversial filmmakers not only have emerged from Danish television production. They often go back to it. Behold a magnificent case in point:

Lars von TrierLars von Trier returns to TV: what can we expect?
by Graeme Virtue

Good news for fans of the phrase “enfant terrible” – on Monday, Lars von Trier, the puckish provocateur of European arthouse cinema, broke his self-imposed media silence by Skype-ing the Venice film festival. Nominally it was to promote an extended cut of his sex diptych Nymphomaniac, but Louise Vesth, Von Trier’s producer since Melancholia, dropped a juicier exclusive by confirming the writer/director’s next project: an English-language TV series for Danish broadcaster DR (The Bridge/The Killing), with the working title The House that Jack Built. Had Vesth simply pulled the trigger, or jumped the gun? Von Trier hasn’t even finished writing the script and the earliest filming date would be 2016, but here’s what we might expect.

He Has Impressive TV Cred

Before co-founding the Dogme 95 movement, Von Trier made his bones in TV – quite literally, with the unsettling hospital drama The Kingdom, applying startling handheld filming to stylised, often supernatural subject matter. With its atmospheric production design and leaps of nightmare logic, The Kingdom (not to be confused with Stephen Fry’s Norfolk-set legal drama) looks like a precursor to American Horror Story – perhaps AHS creator Ryan Murphy saw the Danish-language original, or the short-lived English-language remake overseen by US terrifier-in-chief Stephen King. Before focusing on movies, Von Trier also experimented with other TV formats, including turning the traditional chatshow into a gruelling endurance test. Guests who appeared on the Von Trier-conceivedMarathon in 1996 were interviewed for 24 hours (though the final product was edited for transmission).

He wants a ‘huge cast’

Whatever house Jack ends up building, it might require a lot of guest rooms, since Von Trier is apparently keen to stuff his mini-series with as many faces as possible. (“He wants a huge cast,” confirmed Vesht.) Despite Von Trier’s abrasive reputation, for every actor who swears off working with him ever again – like poor Björk – there are plenty who have stuck with him, including his lucky charm Stellan Skarsgård. There’s the slim chance that after working together on Melancholia, Von Trier might be considering Kiefer Sutherland for the lead role, which would bring a meta-textual sizzle to The House that Jack Built. Other intriguing actors he could find in his Rolodex: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jamie Bell, Christian Slater … although not, sadly, the late Lauren Bacall, who had collaborated with von Trier twice. He could also tap the local Scandi TV talent pool, most of whom speak excellent English, though hiring too many at once might create a damaging knock-on effect for other homegrown dramas.

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