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Cannes 2011: Director Lars von Trier retracts Nazi comment, apologizes

May 18, 2011 | 12:14 pm


Danish director Lars von Trier, an auteur provocateur known for his controversial films, apologized Wednesday after joking with reporters at the Cannes Film Festival that he was a Nazi and that he was glad he was not of Jewish heritage, as he once hoped he might be.

At a news conference for his new film “Melancholia,” starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as sisters, he said that he at one point “really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because, you know, my family was German. Which also gave me some pleasure.”

He added: “What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end. … He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against Jews...I am very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the” butt.

He also took a shot at fellow Danish director Susanne Bier, who is Jewish and whose movie “In a Better World” won the Oscar for foreign language film this year.

The remarks were an attempt at humor, but they were met with silence in the roomful of reporters.

The comments grew out of a question Von Trier was asked about his use of music by Wagner in a striking opening sequence of “Melancholia.” The longer he spoke, the deeper the hole got, and he seemed to realize it, as did Dunst and Gainsbourg, who were sitting next to him. Reaching an impasse in his monologue, he ended with “OK, I'm a Nazi.”

After festival organizers issued a statement saying they were “disturbed” by the comments, Von Trier's publicity team replied with an apology attributed to the director. “If I have hurt someone 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,” it said.

Two years ago, Von Trier got into a tussle with a reporter at a news conference in Cannes after the journalist questioned the tastefulness of his “Antichrist,” which featured several scenes of bloody castration.

A bit ironically, this latest flap comes as Von Trier is promoting a film far less provocative than “Antichrist.” “Melancholia” centers on a wedding and a dysfunctional family, and is set against the looming prospect of Earth's end. The movie was generating buzz as a possible contender for Cannes’ top prize, the Palme d'Or, immediately after it screened. But Von Trier’s remarks seemed to cast that into serious doubt.

Von Trier did win the Palme for “Dancer in the Dark,” his divisive drama starring Bjork, in 2000.


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--Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France

Photo: Director Lars von Trier and actress Kirsten Dunst attend a news conference for the film "Melancholia" in Cannes on Thursday. Credit: Reuters/Yves Herman  

Comments () | Archives (22)

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Why is this in 24 Frames and not front page of Entertainment?

Dancer in the Dark was WONDERFUL while Antichrist is a worthless piece of trash.

This guy's a scream! Can he work up a solid seven minutes for Leno?

I've only seen one Von Trier film, "Breaking the Waves," and I wish I could erase that from my memory. Judging from that film, he's a true misanthropist and misogynist.

"The movie was generating buzz as a possible contender for Cannes’ top prize, the Palme d'Or, immediately after it screened. But Von Trier’s remarks seemed to cast that into serious doubt."

Shouldn't his film be a contender, regardless of his remarks? Or is that the way things work in the entertainment industry (i.e Hollywood)?

vontrier is a highly eccentric and erratic kind of guy and his remarks should not be taken seriously. He wanted to wind up the press corps and he got his desired reaction. The Cannes festival organizers and judges should let it rest there and judge his work impartially.

He's a moron.

He has an inappropriate sense of humor and is an awkward person. It was fun to watch the video and see everyone's extreme discomfort. He wasn't being serious, people!!

He's the guy that damns America but has never been to it. He' a buffoon. It's too bad because there's some great talent there. (even if you hate his material, he knows how to get the most out of his actresses)

The guy grew up thinking his father was he Jewish Ulf Trier.


"In 1989, von Trier's mother revealed on her deathbed that the man who he thought was his father was not, and that she had had a tryst with her former employer, a man named Fritz Michael Hartmann (1909–2000), who descended from a long line of Roman Catholic classical musicians, in order to give her son "artistic genes".


Sad and pathetic.

I was looking forward to seeing this film. Not anymore....
Someone remind him he's in public, that that was his outside voice and people heard him. Lots of us...as in the paying public - those of us against hatred. Apparently he supports it. Not me. "Melancholia," I'll pass.

Trier is forgetting that Hitler found the Holocaust something to laugh and joke about. Unlike many other people who have done 'not nice things', he and his cronies took pleasure in inflicting pain and in committing mass murder. As he died, Hitler blamed the German people for their lack of courage and conviction, never having any remorse for what he had done to the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, mentally and physically disabled and many other groups that are rarely mentioned.

Oddly, one of the few outcomes of the war of which Hitler would have approved is the state of Israel. One of his policies was shipping Jews to the Middle East, maybe Trier could make a film of some of the less well reported facts of the Hitler period and you never know, he might learn something.

Consider his intent,accept his apology.Let it go.Lesson-intent is important and if you survive an atrocity-its never funny.

Lars Von Trier is known for creating these kind of uncomfortable situations in his films, it makes sense that he might do so in public. Was he kidding? Yes! But sometimes the provocateur style can backfire big time. Can't wait to see the film. Thought Antichrist was underrated.

damn Nazism!

You can watch the video of Lars Von Trier's comments about Nazis, Hitler and Jews here: http://gtcha.me/mOgUb0

Look, I don't mean to be rude here, but you guys just don't get him. Lars is a writer and director. My brother and I are Hollywood writers. As big writers in this town, you sometimes say things you don't mean. It's our job to say what comes to mind without thinking. Thinking slows down the craft. There's no way we would have been able to write, "Dan's Dream" as fast as we did if we were forced to think about what we were writing. Lars is no exception to this.

Now, my brother and I don't think Hitler was good. Nor do we condone or understand that evil man's actions at all, but we do understand writers. If you silence the writers... who speaks for us then?

-Steve Tornowski

Lars is an artist and a fearless visionary. His films stream with the juices of life.

Is this the kind of thing that someone with Asperger's might do.. Woefully oblivious to how his words would be taken?

Cannes kicked out one of the most talented filmmakers in the world for a provocative, joking, irreverent, harmless, tangent, that had the international press laughing, knowing full well Lars Von Trier did not mean the things he was saying. Really? Then he apologized (unnecessarily-read his full quotes), and they still kicked him out? Freedom of expression and speech does not actually exist. The reality is, one must be politically correct at all times or suffer persecution from certain groups. One can say whatever they like so long as the statements agree with the polically correct institution. The closest thing we have to the Nazi persecution of years ago can be seen so ironically in the rhetoric and outrage of certain groups which persecute those who do not bow down to their views. Lars Von Trier is too good for Cannes anyway. His persecution has been comical and whether he intended to or not, he's brilliantly exposed the fraud and hypocrisy of the 'powers' that be.

to the woman who called him a misogynist, you are the kind of person he likes to piss off. with so many man-hating, crotch-kicking, emsculating movies we have to tolerate these days I like a guy who points out the dark but true notions about how cruel the fairer sex can be. about Hitler...he was joking! (kinda, sorta, but an artist is allowed to think freely).....get over it!


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