How to make your audience suffer: melodrama, masochism and dead time in Lars von Trier's Dogville
Both fans and critics of Lars von Trier's work would likely agree with his capacity to make his audience suffer. This essay canvasses the devices through which the suffering of women in von Trier's melodramas is rendered excruciating to watch. Drawing on Deleuze's influential account of masochism, the first part of the essay discusses how von Trier's film Dogville foregrounds the complicated relationship that suffering has with pleasure and power. The second part of the essay focuses on the temporal dynamics of melodrama and the creative ways in which Lars von Trier disturbs the rhythms of suffering on screen. In particular I argue that von Trier introduces intervals of 'dead time' that make the passage of time itself painful to the audience and that open up a larger cultural history of temporal disorder. This part of the essay looks back to von Trier's early experiments with time in Psychomobile 1: The World Clock (2000) and forward to more recent innovative play with time and movement in Melancholia (2011) to make the case for rethinking the temporal dimensions of mediated suffering and the significance of time in the work of Lars von Trier.
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