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Cannes Blasts Lars von Trier For Joking About Nazis; Filmmaker Apologizes

Festival condemns ”Melancholia“ director’s flippant comments about Hitler, Nazis; von Trier says he’s not anti-Semitic

When Danish director Lars von Trier took his film "Antichrist" to the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, the explicit, transgressive sex and violence of the film caused enormous controversy that overshadowed much of the rest of the festival.

Two years later he's back with a "Melancholia," a film that might be about the end of the world but one that's not as polarizing or offensive as "Antichrist" was to some.

Lars von TrierAlso read: Cannes Review: 'Melancholia,' Baby

So von Trier used his Cannes press conference to stir things up instead.

The biggest fuss came when a question about his German roots caused him to wade into a rambling response in which whatever points he was trying to make were clearly muddied by some jokes about director Susanne Bier that led into a confused mix of stuff about Jews, Hitler and Nazis.

"What can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things but I can see him sitting in his bunker," he said. Beside him, Kirsten Dunst gasps, "Oh God!" and hides uncomfortably behind him.

" I think I understand the man. He’s not what I would call a good guy, but I undertand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little. But come on – I’m not for the Second World War."

And then, clearly aware that he was going down some taboo paths, he shrugged it off with a joke:

“Now how can I get out of this sentence? Okay. I’m a Nazi.”


Before long, Cannes organizers issued a harshly-worded statement in which they said the festival was "disturbed" by von Trier's comments, and had asked him to provide an explanation. "The Festival is adamant that it would never allow the event to become the forum for such pronouncements on such subjects," said the Cannes release.

In response, von Trier issued the following statement:

"If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi."

But he's certainly a master provocateur. Vulture compiled what they called the 10 most controversial things he said at the press conference, which included comments about why he chose Kirsten Dunst for the role of a depressed young bride ("I would say that Kirsten has some knowledge of depression"), and how his next film was going to be a porn movie with Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

He also said "it was a very big pleasure" to make "Melancholia," but that he wasn't sure about the movie when he began to see the footage.

"Maybe it’s crap," he said. "I hope not. But there is quite a big possibility that it might be really not worth seeing."

Essentially, the press conference appears to have played more as a comedy routine than an attempt to answer questions – albeit comedy based on saying offensive things, then repeating them, them upping the ante.

Welcome to von Trier's world. (This is, after all, a guy who appeared at the outdoor photo session for his film with the F-word written on his knuckles, and then obligingly thrust his fist toward the cameramen.)

For the record, here's the transcript of von Trier's answer to a question "about his German roots and his interest in the Nazi aesthetic":

"The only thing I can tell you is that I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew, then later on came [Danish and Jewish director] Susanne Bier, and suddenly I wasn't so happy about being a Jew. That was a joke. Sorry.

"But it turned out that I was not a Jew. If I'd been a Jew, then I would be a second-wave Jew, a kind of a new-wave Jew, but anyway, I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because my family is German. And that also gave me some pleasure.

"So, I, what can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things but I can see him sitting in his bunker. [Kirsten Dunst goes, "Oh God!" and hides uncomfortably behind Lars.] I'm saying that I think I understand the man. He is not what we could call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him …

"But come on! I'm not for the Second World War. And I'm not against Jews. No, not even Susanne Bier. I am very much for them. As much as Israelis are a pain in the ass.

How do I get out of this sentence? Okay, I am a Nazi. As for the art, I'm for Speer. Albert Speer, I liked. He was also one of God's best children. He has a talent that … Okay, enough."