It’s official – he may have apologized, but Lars von Trier has been banned from the Cannes Film Festival. It wasn’t a controversial movie that got the director, who won the Palme d’Or in 2000 for Dancer in the Dark, into trouble this time around, but the comments he made in a press conference about his new film Meloncholia yesterday. I was there when he was answering a journalist from The Times’ question about Germanic influences in his movies. This was his answer:
“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. 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.”
Kirsten Dunst, who stars in the film, was visibly uncomfortable as he spoke, but his deadpan delivery and the slight smile on his face sort of insinuated he had been joking. Some audience members laughed; I think I must have had my jaw dropped for most of this time. But clearly this is not the place to make these kinds of comments. The board of Cannes met early this morning and this is their statement:
The Festival de Cannes provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation. The Festival’s Board of Directors, which held an extraordinary meeting this Thursday 19 May 2011, profoundly regrets that this forum has been used by Lars Von Trier to express comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the Festival.The Board of Directors firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars Von Trier a persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately.
And this all just after we had sighed a breath of relief upon exiting the cinema that Melancholia had been nowhere near as controversial as his previous film, Antichrist.