9 January 2018

Lars von Trier receives the Sonning Prize 2018


The Sonning Prize 2018 goes to the Danish film director and scriptwriter, Lars von Trier. The University of Copenhagen’s DKK 1 million Sonning Prize is the biggest cultural award in Denmark. The award is given to an individual who has done commendable work for the benefit of European culture.

The recipient of the Sonning Prize 2018, the 61-year-old Danish film director and scriptwriter Lars von Trier, is one of the few living filmmakers who has had a persistent and pivotal significance for contemporary European films. With more than twenty spectacular and innovative film and TV productions, Lars von Trier is one of Europe's most important and most ground-breaking film creators.

“As a filmmaker, Lars von Trier has managed to give different genres his very own interpretation. In that sense, he is a ground-breaking and avantgarde artist who positions himself confidently and self-consciously in a place far removed from the ever more commercialised mainstream films. It’s this continued embrace and break with the conventional, which sets Lars von Trier's work apart and has contributed to making European film something special,” says Chairman of the Academy Council, Milena Bonifacini, who has been involved in the nomination of Lars von Trier for the Sonning Prize 2018.

Artistic image maker

Lars von Trier started his unique artistic work in the mid-1980s and is today a central figure on the international art film scene.  In his youth, Lars von Trier applied to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and although film turned out to become his art more than visual arts, there is no doubt that Lars von Trier can do something very special with images.

“All of Lars von Trier's film are visually incredibly strong. He is a fantastic image maker and has, as such, had major impact on many artists,” says Milena Bonifacini.

Innovator and provocateur

Where many other filmmakers like to focus on the same themes, and in principle create variations based on the same template, Lars von Trier's universe is characterised by being more complex and unpredictable. He consciously takes on many different genres such as: disaster movies, melodrama, musical, thriller, horror, comedy, and he challenges conventions by continually mixing and interpreting different styles.

In Denmark, it was the dark-humour TV series The Kingdom from 1994 which made Lars von Trier's name known among the general public. It is also here that von Trier really breaks with the conventional perfectionism in film production. A step which ended up with the innovative Dogma 95 style manifesto, which has since marked not just Danish, but also European film. The international breakthrough came in 1996 with Breaking the Waves.

“In The Kingdom, Lars von Trier challenged his own drive for control and aesthetically pleasing perfection in favour of a more unpolished realism, where the characters became the main element. In Breaking the Waves, he went one step further and led the camera himself. Since then, grandiose emotions have been a central element in his films. This has allowed his often demanding films to be relevant and loved by a big global audience,” says Milena Bonifacini.

In his most recent work, Nymphomaniac, Lars Von Trier takes yet another step and appears to let his own internal state of mind shine through. The movie from 2013 is often described as part of the director's 'depression trilogy', and, in many ways, marks a change of mood in the peculiar and ever-experimental instructor and filmmaker.

Time and place:

The Sonning Prize 2018 will be awarded on Sonning’s birthday on 19 April in the Ceremonial Hall at the University of Copenhagen.

About the Sonning Prize

Read about the Sonning Prize and previous recipients at www.ku.dk/sonningprisen


Milena Bonifacini, Chairman of the Academy Council
mobile: +45 21 76 04 18

Christian Hedegaard, communications adviser, University of Copenhagen
mobile +45 31 14 87 82