Born in 1956 in Copenhagen, Lars Trier began making movies as a child with a Super 8 camera.

He went on to study at the Danish Film School, where he was encouraged by his fellow students to adopt the “Von”.

Award-winning student films were followed by his first feature, The Element of Crime, in 1984.

A nightmarish, visually distinctive thriller, it became the first of several Von Trier works to be shortlisted for Cannes’ prestigious Palme d’Or award.

The director was back in Cannes in 1991 with Europa, a drama set in Germany in the aftermath of World War II, which ended up sharing the Jury prize.

Von Trier was put out not to win the Palme, though, referring to Roman Polanski – chair of that year’s jury – as “the midget”.

Both Von Trier and Bjork (left) were honoured at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival

The Dane’s international standing was boosted by The Kingdom, an atmospheric mini-series set in a creepy Copenhagen hospital.

He also received acclaim for Breaking the Waves, an unsettling film about a naive young woman – played by Britain’s Emily Watson – whose devotion to her husband has shocking consequences.

To most cineastes, though, he is best known as a co-signatory of the Dogme 95 manifesto – a “vow of chastity” he made with three fellow Danish film-makers.

Their films, they declared, would strip away artifice by being shot on location using natural light and handheld cameras.

Under these self-imposed restrictions, Von Trier made The Idiots – a hugely divisive film about young people who pretend to be mentally and physically impaired.

The BBC’s Mark Kermode was so incensed by the result he was ejected from its screening in Cannes after loudly voicing his objections.