After a screening of Lars von Trier’s latest film, “Melancholia,” starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Charlotte Rampling, a major uproar occurred over some very controversial (and most likely taken-VERY-out-of-context) statements that he made.
Mr. von Trier, describing his use of the Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” in the film, was asked by a British journalist about his claim to have an interest in the Nazi aesthetic and his German roots. (Which he had apparently commented on in a previous interview.)
Apparently, von Trier’s mother had told him on her deathbed that her father-who was Jewish- was not his biological parent. “I really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi,” he said.
The Hitler remarks are as follows: “I think I understand the man. He’s not what you would call a good guy. But I understand much about him, I sympathize with him a little bit.”
Perhaps von Trier, who suffers from depression, and in fact just finished “Melancholia” to help assuage this battle, was trying to be sympathetic with probably the most hated persona in current history. This certainly was not the forum to do so. Had he been out on the yacht with DiCaprio and Spielberg, perhaps it could have evolved into a civilized, intellectual conversation. But this was a Press Conference. At Cannes, no less, one of the most frenzied and frenetic press outlets outside of Lady Gaga moon landing.
Lars von Trier, of Danish descent, is one of cinema’s most notorious enfants terribles, calling Cannes juror Roman Polanski “the midget” in 1991, when he missed out on the Palme D’Or, instead grabbing the Jury Runner-Up Prize instead for “Europa.” His last film, “Antichrist,” was extremely explicit, almost disturbingly so.
Here is what the Cannes Film Festival posed on its website today: “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.”
Von Trier insisted afterwards that he was really only joking, and apologized afterwards. Festival President Gilles Jacob said “Melancholia” will be allowed to remain in competition. But if “Melancholia” garners any Prizes at Cannes, even the Palme D’Or, von Trier will not be allowed to be there in person to collect it. He will still be banned and barred from the closing ceremonies on Sunday.