Lars von Trier jokes about being a Nazi, then takes it back

You crazy for this one, Lars! Exactly two years (to the day!) since his controversial screening of Antichrist at the Cannes Film Festival – where he met angry catcalls from the press with the response, “I am the best director in the world” – von Trier returned to the Croisette to screen his new film Melancholia, and say even crazier things (documented exhaustively by The Hollywood Reporter).

At a press conference following the screening – which you can watch in full here –  he cheekily joked about his heritage:

“For a long time I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew…then I met (Danish and Jewish director) Susanne Bier and I wasn’t so happy. But then I found out I was actually a Nazi. My family were German. And that also gave me some pleasure. What can I say? I understand Hitler…I sympathize with him a bit.”

He added a caveat, but it didn’t stick:

“I don’t mean I’m in favor of World War II and I’m not against Jews, not even Susanne Bier…In fact I’m very much in favor of them. All Jews. Well, Israel is a pain in the ass but…Now how can I get out of this sentence? Ok. I’m a Nazi.”

Needless to say, his film’s stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst looked on in puzzlement. At one point Dunst turned to Gainsbourg and was heard to exclaim, “Oh my God, this is terrible.” Later on, he stated that – because Dunst demanded it – his next film would be a “really hard core” porno.

Obviously a lot of the hilariously-provocative and intentionally-offensive director’s comments look much worse when written out, particularly the bit where he said he might make a film called The Final Solution.

But von Trier – a man famous for running his characters (not to mention his audiences) through physical and emotional ringers – knew he had overstepped the mark.

Following the conference he issued an apology, stating:

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

The Cannes Film Festival told THR that they condemned von Trier’s comments:

“The director states that he let himself be egged on by a provocation… The Festival acknowledges this and is passing on Lars von Trier’s apology. The Festival is adamant that it would never allow the event to become the forum for such pronouncements on such subjects.”

And the Anti-Defamation League similarly spoke against von Trier’s statements, noting that his diatribe was “bizarre”.

Anyway … Melancholia looks great, even though the critical reception has been mixed.

Discuss: Typical von Trier nuttiness, or did he cross the line?

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