Lars von Trier vows never to vow again
There’s something about Lars von Trier saying that he’ll no longer make public statements that feels akin to an asthmatic swearing off his inhaler. The director doesn’t simply like to talk -- he can’t get along without it.
And yet this morning, the Danish provocateur -- who came under fire at the Cannes Film Festival this year for saying he was a Nazi who sympathized with Hitler -- has pledged just that. In a typically Dadaist move, Von Trier released a statement Wednesday saying that he'll no longer release statements. The statement indicates that authorities in the Danish region of North Zealand confronted him over his Cannes remarks.
In its entirety, via his publicist’s email account, it reads:
"Today at 2 pm I was questioned by the Police of North Zealand in connection with charges made by the prosecution of Grasse in France from August 2011 regarding a possible violation of prohibition in French law against justification of war crimes. The investigation covers comments made during the press conference in Cannes in May 2011. Due to these serious accusations, I have realized that I do not possess the skills to express myself unequivocally and I have therefore decided from this day forth to refrain from all public statements and interviews."
The revelation that there was an inquiry, now or in August, was news in and of itself; there had been no previous report of an investigation. (It's even unclear what French statute Von Trier may have violated; the country has a law against Holocaust denial, which Von Trier did not engage in. The international organization the Council of Europe has an article that speaks out against "justification of genocide or crimes of humanity," but it's not a law, since the Council of Europe doesn't have the power to make those.)
Of course, with Von Trier all is performance, even his statement that he won’t give statements. It's worth noting he's made comments to this effect before. In Cannes, he told 24 Frames that he didn't know if he would ever sit for another news conference. "I'm just an idiot that should just stay home in Denmark and never talk to anybody," he said.
Like Terrell Owens, who often seemed to play football to support his press-conference habit, a filmmaker like Von Trier seems incapable of not speaking -- which makes it easy to read his "decision" as some sort of ironic joke. (Takes your best guess at how serious Von Trier is in our poll below.)
Von Trier does have a movie, “Melancholia,” opening in the U.S. on Nov. 11. Most directors prefer to speak in support of their film, and most studios want to encourage that. In this case, though, it may be better all around if Von Trier sticks with his impulse for reticence, fleeting though it may be.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Lars von Trier. Credit: Francois Mori/Associated Press