Lars von Trier – Menthe – la bienheureuse (1979)


Even more so than The Orchid Gardener, this film anticipates Lars von Trier’s later work. The cross-wielding figure who emerges in the final shot before the end title in The Orchid Gardener appears here as “the Jew” who keeps the garden in the cloister where Menthe’s would-be mistress attempts to make her “remember” the things that they have lived together in a series of images that play with expectations about dominance.

Various brief notices of the film identify it as Lars von Trier’s homage to Histoire d’O but it also draws on the narrative style of Marguerite Duras as if retouched by Jean Genet. The title has been translated into English as Menthe – the blissful but it would probably be more accurate (if apparently awkward) to translate it as Mint – the blessed one. Lars von Trier’s cv on the Zentropa site gives simply Menthe as the English festival title. The question of the addressee’s name is disputed through the dialogic narrative that unfolds as Menthe’s history is elliptically told by the speaker who attempts to entice her to travel with her to the “South” (another indication of the influence of Duras?).

Besides the ecstatically mutilated woman who reappears at the center of von Trier’s Golden Heart trilogy and in the figures of “Grace” and “She”, this film also introduces the Ascension motif which has its counterpart in the final shot of The Orchid Gardener also where the Dreyer-esque “Jew” appears to impale the film itself as if it were Vampyr.


The Executioner/Victim:


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