I saw Lars von Trier’s film Breaking the Waves when it was released in theaters in 1996. Even though it featured stellar acting and was filled to the brim with gut-wrenching drama, what I remember most are the transporting bits of film used as chapter stops. Imagine my delight when I learned that Per Kirkeby is responsible for them. It wasn’t his first, or last, foray in to film. We’re featuring his 1970 film Deer Garden: The Romantic Forest in our current exhibition. He’s also worked with von Trier on Dancer in the Dark (which we are screening in December, along with Breaking the Waves) and Antichrist.
In Breaking the Waves, the story is presented in chapters, like a novel, and each is introduced with chapter number and name during an interlude of a landscape backed by a 1970s pop song. The views are spectacular. The one for chapter two has stayed with me most, and I’ve often daydreamed of being there, where ever that is. I had never thought to look up Kirkeby’s titles online to see if they had been captured on their own, and of course they have been. The image quality in the YouTube versions isn’t as beautiful as watching the movie in the theater, but you can still see the incredible shifting northern European light and lush land. On the big screen, they are enveloping. Watching them now after becoming better acquainted with Kirkeby’s painting, I certainly see the resonance. The lovely scene for the epilogue of a creek rushing under the arch of a stone bridge can’t help but bring to mind his painting Dark Cave (The Dream about Uxmal and the Unknown Grottos of Yucatan) (1967).