If I had to preface von Trier’s films with any literary work, it would be this poem that Charles Baudelaire. He speaks the truth and does so vehemently. And, like the director, likes to call out humanity for its hypocrisy.
To the Reader
Folly, error, sin and avarice
Occupy our minds and waste our bodies,
And we feed our polite remorse
As beggars feed their lice.
Our sins are stubborn, our repentance is cowardly;
We ask high prices for our vows,
And we gaily return to the muddy road,
Believing we will wash away all our spots with our vile tears.
On the pillow of evil it is Thrice-Great Satan
Who endlessly rocks our bewitched mind,
And the rich metal of our will
Is vaporized by that wise chemist.
It is the Devil who pulls the strings that move us!
In repulsive objects we find enticing lures;
Each day we go down one more step toward Hell,
Without horror, through the darkness which smells rank.
Just as a lustful pauper who kisses and bites
The martyred breast of an aged whore,
We steak as we move along, a clandestine pleasure
Which we squeeze hard like an old orange.
Packed tight and swarming like a million maggots,
A crowd of demons carouse in our brains,
And, when we breathe, Death into our lungs
Descends, an invisible river, with heavy wailings.
If rape, poison, the knife, arson
Have not yet woven with their pleasing patterns
The banal canvas of our pitiful fate,
It is because our soul, alas, is not bold enough.
But among the jackals, panthers, bitches,
Monkeys, scorpions, vultures, serpents,
The monsters squealing, yelling, grunting, crawling
In the infamous menagerie of our vices
There is one uglier, more wicked and more foul than all!
Although he does not make great gestures or great cries,
He would gladly make the earth a shambles
And swallow the wolrd in a yawn;
It is boredom! His eyes weeping and involuntary tear,
He dreams of gibbets as he smokes hi hookah,
You know him, reader, this delicate monster,
- Hypocrite reader – my twin – my brother!