Strange and brazen filmmaker Lars Von Trier’s life outside of his film work is almost as fascinating, if not moreso, than his films! Born to atheistic Danish nudists, Von Trier started making his own films at the age of eleven, and following high school enrolled in the National Film School of Denmark. Following graduation, he began making feature films starting with the crime drama The Element of Crime, which won a technical award at Cannes. He followed it with a science fiction film called Epidemic, as well as a television movie adaptation of Medea and the film Europa. In the 1990s, Von Trier made a pair of mini-series called The Kingdom, which would later be remade for North American audiences as Kingdom Hospital, and in 1995, Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg presented their manifesto for a new cinematic movement called Dogme 95, which resulted in numerous experimental films being made according to the manifesto guidelines, inspiring filmmakers worldwide. In 2000, Von Trier made the musical film Dancer in the Dark with singer Bjork, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, as well as The Five Obstructions, about a series of film experiments, and the films Dogville, Manderlay, Dear Wendy, and The Boss of it All. In 2009, Von Trier released his most notorious film: the horror movie Antichrist starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. While Gainsbourg would win the Best Actress award at Cannes, the film itself was instead granted a kind of “anti-award” due to its genital mutiliations and other such graphic content. In 2010, Von Trier released Melancholia, a haunting, poetic disaster movie, which again scored big at Cannes, but was unfortunately overshadowed by controversy surrounding Von Trier’s joking comments that were interpretted as his confession to being a Nazi sympathizer. The scandal ultimately resulted in Von Trier being banned from the Cannes film festival (which I think is utterly stupid, frankly), and sadly Melancholia was given a backstage to the hooplah. In spite of the controversy and his blacklisting, Von Trier is pressing on with another graphic film called Nymphomaniac, again starring Gainsbourg. I find myself both fascinated and repelled by Von Trier’s work…but something tells me he wants it that way. Lars Von Trier turns 56 today.