Lars von Trier claims to ‘understand Hitler’ at Cannes press conference, and Xan Brooks reviews his latest film, Melancholia Link to this video.
The festival’s board of directors has announced it held “an extraordinary meeting” that led to Von Trier being declared “a persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately”.
The board defended the festival’s history as an “exceptional forum [for artists] to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation” but went on to say that it “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 director, whose mischievous persona has in the past been indulged at the festival, was widely thought to have overstepped the mark atWednesday’s press conference, where he, seemingly as a joke, announced himself to be a Nazi. As the atmosphere became increasingly uncomfortable, Von Trier continued: “What can I say? I understand Hitler. He did some wrong things, absolutely, but I can see him sitting there in his bunker at the end … I sympathise with him, yes, a little bit.”
The festival organisers subsequently issued a statement distancing themselves from the comments and explaining that they had asked the director for an explanation. An hour later Von Trier said: “If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologise. I am not antisemitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi.” But his contrition does not appear to have been enough.
It was not immediately clear what form the ban would take. A festival spokeswoman told Reuters that Melancholia would remain in contention for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. However, further press engagements to promote Melancholia were cancelled, with illness on the part of interviewees cited.
Von Trier appeared to be in confrontational mood after news of the ban broke. The Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet quoted him as saying: “I’m proud to have been declared persona non grata. This is maybe the first time in film history that has happened.
“I think one of the reasons is that the French themselves treated the Jews badly during the second world war. Therefore it is a touchy subject for them. I highly respect the Cannes festival, but I also understand that they are very angry with me right now.”