During Cannes interview, banned director says furor was fanned by French history of “being cruel to the Jews”
Lars Von Trier may have been declared persona non grata at the Cannes Film Festival, but that hasn't stopped him from giving interviews to promote his film "Melancholia."
And he may have gotten himself in trouble with his comments about Nazis, Hitler and Jews, but that hasn't prevented him from continuing to shoot his mouth off.
At a previously-scheduled roundtable interview with a group of journalists on Thursday, Von Trier (left, with festival chief Thierry Fremaux) addressed the ban, saying, "I'm very proud of being persona non grata. I've never been that before in my life, and that suits me extremely well."
He added, "I'm known for provocations, but I like provocations when they have a purpose. And this had no purpose whatsoever. Because I'm not Mel Gibson. I'm definitely not Mel Gibson."
(Gibson is also at the festival, appearing at the Cannes screening of the film "The Beaver" but not talking to the press about his recent troubles, which included anti-Semitic comments.)
According to Ben Kenigsberg from TimeOut Chicago, who was part of the roundtable interview, Von Trier also explained that, as far as he knows, he is required to keep a certain distance away from festival property. "I should be carried around in a little cage with something in my mouth and shown to the press," he said.
He added that he offered to have his film withdrawn from the festival, but organizers declined to take that step. A spokesperson for Cannes says that "Melancholia" remains eligible for the Palme d'Or, but that Von Trier cannot appear at the ceremony to accept if it wins.
The provocative filmmaker, whose films include "Antichrist" and "Breaking the Waves," also insisted repeatedly that his offensive comments were simply a joke gone awry, and that when he said he was a Nazi he was simply using "stupid" Danish slang in which Nazi is a synonym for German.
(Von Trier said he grew up thinking he was of Jewish descent, but later learned that his actual father was a non-Jewish German.)
"I think the Holocaust is the worst crime in humanity that I can remember," he said, pointing out that he had visited concentration camps.
As for the reaction to his comments: "I believe that it's an especially delicate subject down here, because the French have a history of being extremely cruel to the Jews."
As he took his seat at the beginning of the interview, said Kenigberg, Von Trier sounded a typically flippant note:
"If any of you would like to hit me, you're perfectly welcome. I must warn you that I might enjoy it."
(Photo by Georges DeKeerle/Getty Images)