There’s something about Lars von Trier’s filmmaking that makes his work a dynamic playing field for every type of Hollywood talent. This is the man who made Bjork a believable film actress, whose Dear Wendy script made Chris Owen more than the Klepto Kid and Chuck Sherman. This is the man who wiped away memories of Mary Jane Watson and cinematic disappointment and reintroduced Kirsten Dunst as a formidable dramatic actress.
Lars von Trier is exactly what Lindsay Lohan needs.
It wasn’t so long ago that Lohan was poised on the precipice of adult success. After making a name for herself as the ginger poster child for Disney, she found cult success with Mean Girls and started steering away from Herbie family schlock and into indie dramas like A Prairie Home Companion and Bobby. But with one foot out of her kid-centric past, Lohan’s other foot landed squarely in the world of drugs and tabloid fodder. In a blink she was the wild child who couldn’t be tamed—the young talent who was in and out of jail just as often as she strutted in and out of bars.
An uninsurable mess, Lohan hasn’t had any luck securing new cinematic gigs as she tries to clean herself up. Many young women struggling to break free from their youthful past bare skin and get sexy, but since that didn’t work for La Lohan in I Know Who Killed Me, she’s taking it a step farther, questing to find legitimacy as a Playboy centerfold dressed like Marilyn Monroe. Though to be fair, continuing the trend by posing as Elizabeth Taylor has gotten her foot in the door for a Lifetime TV movie. But it’s hardly the right choice.
For Lohan, legitimacy seems to go hand in hand with emulating yesterday’s cinematic sirens, which reads more like professional masturbation than career reinvigoration. The public isn’t falling for Lohan playing dress-up as Monroe or Taylor, and the photo shoots seem much more like warped Warhol pastiche than creative passion. These professional moves continue to frame Lohan as an object of ridicule, a blank and problematic form rather than a talent whose bad decisions have plagued her professional life.
Relating to Elizabeth Taylor’s own stage mom issues and young stardom might appeal to Lohan, but what she needs is someone who understands the world on a much more visceral level. Lohan and von Trier are big names with train-wreck tendencies—poster children for media disasters. Where Lohan flirts with drugs and parties, von Trier is wrapped in phobias and ill-framed Nazi jokes. But the Danish filmmaker has something that Lohan desperately needs: a talent for wiping away stigmas and expectations to get to the core of a person and pull out inherent talent.
As much as people love to chastise Lohan, she’s a star not because she’s a mess of a woman, but because she used to be a young actress brimming with potential and talent. Her fall from grace was long and hard, but somewhere in there, beneath the gleam of Hollywood and plastic skin, fashion and bling, parties and drama, is the young woman whose talent was easy to recognize. Von Trier could tap into the pain while bringing out the skill so deeply buried.
This is all the man does; take his thoughts, phobias, and inadequacies and frame them cinematically. His recent work reflects someone continually battling with his inner demons and it creates beautiful pieces—isolation, self-discovery, and pain from the likes of Dogville and Antichrist or better yet, using the end of the world to invoke the suffocating feelings of depression in Melancholia. He has this way of taking an essence of an idea, pulling just the right feeling from his actors, and thrusting it into a world that perfectly accentuates the film’s central focus.
After making Dogville, Nicole Kidman talked about the filmmaker: “He challenges you on everything. We used to go hiking in the snow together and drive around in his little camper van and he would challenge me on my religion, my philosophies, my ideas about life, and I think that’s good. I think the conflict at times works because he stirs things up and he is mischievous. The thing about Lars though, is he is trying to find something authentic, he is always digging, digging, digging because he wants to find something in you that no one else has found.”
Let’s face it—a Taylor biopic or run of the mill indie is not going to force Lohan to dig into herself and truly reflect on where her life has gone, nor let viewers forget what we’ve seen over the last few years. Her continual legal troubles and capriciousness show that she hasn’t come close to digging into her dramatic trauma. As irresistible as her fall from grace has been, it would be even more alluring to see Lohan rise above it, and with the help of von Trier, to see her darkness plucked at as much for her own personal growth as for our cinematic entertainment. Comparing and contrasting herself against famous icons won’t make her an icon, but a filmmaker who can merge her natural talents with her personal turmoil on the big screen would be a step in the right direction.