Lars Von Trier Apologizes For Nazi Comments. Sort Of.

by Oliver Lyttelton
May 19, 2011 3:58 AM
4 Comments
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Welcome back to the newly renamed Von TrierList, with the latest update from Cannes on the horrifying controversy the storm in a teacup that followed Lars Von Trier's comments at a press conference for his latest film about his 'Nazi' heritage, and the subsequent statement by festival officials announcing that the director was now "persona non grata" on the Croisette. The latest being that the director has responded to his 'ban.'

Von Trier's continuing with press commitments for "Melancholia," and sat down with a group of journalists, including a representative from Time Out Chicago. He started off by telling them, typically that "If any of you would like to hit me, you're perfectly welcome. I must warn you that I might enjoy it."

He then was asked to comment on his controversial remarks, and responded apologetically "I'm known for provocations, but I like provocations when they have a purpose. And this [von Trier was initially responding to a journalist's question] had no purpose whatsoever. Because I'm not Mel Gibson. I'm definitely not Mel Gibson." Hey, this isn't going too badly. What did he say next?

Update: Oh Lars, really? Why do you have to make it worse? “I have to say I’m a little proud of being named a persona non grata. I think my family would be proud,” he said to THR devilishly. “I have a French order. Now they will likely tear it off my chest.”

"I think the Holocaust is the worst crime in humanity that I can remember... I believe that it's an especially delicate subject down here, because the French have a history of being extremely cruel to the Jews." Ah. We knew he couldn't keep on being apologetic without throwing some more fuel on the flames. He did at least confirm that his original comments were a joke, and admitted "I should be carried around in a little cage with something in my mouth and shown to the press. I'm joking a lot. I think you need, as journalists, even though you don't find it funny, to see my intention."

He gave another series of mixed messages to the LA Times in a separate interview. On the one hand, he gave what seems to be a genuinely sincere apology, saying that ""I'm really sincere when I say I don't really know what hit me. I can understand if you take things out of context. This was very sarcastic and very rude, but that's very Danish. I'm very sorry that it's being taken the wrong way. I must say that I believe strongly that the Holocaust is the worst crime against humanity ever, and I do not sympathize with Hitler one second," and continued, along similar lines as before, "I didn't want to hurt anyone at all [with this]. Sometimes I hurt people on purpose, when there's provocation that I want to get through that has a meaning. This doesn't have a meaning. I've studied how bad the Jews have been treated in [places such as] Poland and France. This is something that matters very much to me. And this was an idiotic way to behave."

But at the same time, he also joked about the apology issued from his camp, saying that "All apologies to me are nonsense. It's saying 'I did something wrong,' but what does that help? I think it makes the whole situation much worse... It's something called damage control," and then attacked the French again: "The reason why it's so big, especially here, is that France has had a problematic relationship with Jews, and you [as an interview subject] shouldn't touch such things. But on the other hand, being a cultural radical, you should touch such things."

And for good measure, he also said he didn't understand why festival organizers were making such a fuss, and went on to compare himself to Albert Speer and Leni Riefenstahl, presumably as his publicist banged her head against a wall somewhere nearby. Quoth the Dane, "It's a major thing at the festival, and very problematic for the festival. And that's a little strange, because even if I was Hitler, what does that have to do with my film being here? It's a festival for films, not for directors... Albert Speer was for me a great artist, and we must accept that there can be big artists, like Riefenstahl, that suddenly get their room to work because of a dictatorship. There are people who want me to take that back, but for the sake of truth I can't do that."

Still, at least he realizes that he's his own worst enemy at this point, telling the journalist ""I'm not sure I'll leave Denmark again... I'm just an idiot that should just say home in Denmark and never talk to anybody." That might be a good idea, Lars. To bring it back to the film, "Melancholia" hits U.S. theaters on November 4th.

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4 Comments

  • jimmiescoffee | May 20, 2011 7:15 AMReply

    if this was Michael bay you guys would have him for lunch. double standards are for losers.

  • kitt | May 19, 2011 6:28 AMReply

    Overblown much??? Is he actually hurting anybody with mindless, sarcastic comments? I'm talking actual pain and aguish?

    I know he just committed the ultimate screw up in how not to promote your film but damn, how many movies out there have already referenced Hitler in a joking manner? Don't even get me started on Family Guy either.

  • Luke | May 19, 2011 4:35 AMReply

    Come on now, he didn't compare himself to Albert Speer and Leni Riefenstahl. He's saying that films and art can be evaluated in isolation of the artist's political/social/cultural beliefs and history. If a film festival like Cannes can't make this distinction then it should cease to exist. Otherwise it's a pretty tacit acknowledge of bias towards like-minded filmmakers rather than evaluating a film's quality in and of itself.

    I'm sure you could argue that Cannes and other film festivals already do this, but that isn't their own STATED goal. The statement issued earlier about promoting artistic freedom bla bla bla was so astoundingly hypocritical.

    If we can't let our artistic provocateurs make these statements, I think art as a whole will really suffer. On a personal level, I hope von Trier's statements about staying in Denmark and shutting up won't affect his quality of work and level of output. No matter what you have to say about his films, I think they occupy a very unique, interesting, and in my opinion important place in the film world.

  • KitCon | May 19, 2011 4:18 AMReply

    I think he should take his cue from The Artist.

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