Early today, the Cannes Film Fest announced that Lars Von Trier has been effectively expelled from this year’s festival, in response to Von Trier’s remarks about Nazis, Hitler and Jews. The troublemaking director decided that ,while jokingly, he would deliver yet more controversial remarks during a press conference, declaring himself a Nazi and saying he had sympathy for Hitler:
“For a long time I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew. Then I met Susanne Bier [she’s Jewish] 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. 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.”
Von Trier then proceeded to say that his next project might be a 3-4 hour porn film starring Melancholia co-stars Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg and it will have “lots of uncomfortable sex.” He than went on to say, “Yes. We Nazis like to do things on a big scale. Maybe I could do The Final Solution.” It is unclear if the ban will extend to future festivals, but I’m pretty sure his comments will affect the chances of his well-received Melancholia taking home any prizes. According to the The New York Times, the film will still be in contention, but if it wins any awards, von Trier will not be there to accept them.
The festival issued a statement this morning, which reads:
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 and the Cannes Film Festival have had a good long history together. The majority, if not all of his films, have played at the fest, with Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves winning the Palme D’Or.
According to The Playlist, Von Trier sat down with a group of journalists to comment on his controversial remarks, and responded apologetically: “I’m known for provocations, but I like provocations when they have a purpose.” He later went on to say, “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… 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.”
Of course the festival had no problem inviting Mel Gibson to Cannes to promote The Beaver and giving him a standing ovation, despite his history of unsavory racial remarks. Personally, I think banning the director from the festival is a bit of a stretch, considering he was not only clearly joking but also offered an apology later on. Of course, the apology came with an insult to the French, when he did go on to say:
“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… 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.”
The bottom line is the festival and everyone and anyone who knows the director knew he would stir up a controversy, and he didn’t say anything to suggest he actually possesses any racial-supremacist views. The above statement from Cannes specifically says, “Cannes provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation.” So is Lars being blacklisted for simply being a dick?
Matt Goldberg of The Collider put it best, stating:
“I don’t care about all of that because it’s not my position to judge the personal lives of people I don’t know or interact with on a daily basis. We should be making judgments of their work because we’re not asking Mel Gibson or Von Trier to be our bastions of moral turpitude or to be our bestest friends. We became interested in them because of the work they create, not the personal trainwrecks they create for themselves. Cannes clearly has no interest in actually policing the behavior of everyone it invites and the banning of Von Trier is a case of “cover-your-ass” and a poor one at that”.