Cannes Film Festival: 'Melancholia' director Lars von Trier talks about Nazis, and gleeful reporters sacrifice meaning in pursuit of a quote


Image Credit: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

At the press conference following the first screening of his masterpiece Melancholia, Lars von Trier was his own worst enemy, and his own jester, too. What else is new? Answering the usual, dim, blah-blah press conference questions (What were your influences? Are you happy with the movie? How was it working with Kirsten Dunstzzzzzzz?) the Danish filmmaker with a talent both for making movies and making mischief went off on weird, dumb tangents. He talked about porn (He said that’s the kind of movie he’s making next), he mentioned Jews, and got tangled up in musings about Nazis. (He said he used to think he was a Jew. Now he thinks he may be a Nazi.) Then again, he also said that maybe his new movie is crap.

He would have done better with a green light flashing over his head flashing JOKE! JOKE! Any journalist who has ever seen von Trier at one of his many Cannes press conferences over the years knows that the man is simultaneously shy and provocative, depressed and joking, off-the-cuff and off-the-wall. Any reporter with any sense of perspective knows not to take such stinkbombs at face value.

Yet because von Trier got tangled in spewing nonsense  and couldn’t dig his way out, well, of course easy-route journalists got their headline: LVT says he may be a Nazi! As a result, now I’ve got a case of melancholia, depressed that such a cheap headline can eclipse the real news that, emerging, painfully, from serious depression, Lars von Trier has made brilliant art.

[UPDATE: After a morning of breathless headlines, von Trier issued this clarification:  “If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not antisemitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi.”]

Read more:
Cannes: Lars von Trier’s stunning ‘Melancholia’
Cannes: The best at mid-fest, including ‘The Artist’
Terrence Malick’s ‘Tree of Life’ is part luminous evocation of boyhood, part cosmic woo-woo

Comments (64 total) Add your comment
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  • C Men

    When will all of the holocaust survivors die so we can finally laugh about it?

    • Fridge

      Probably about the same time you’re actually funny.

      • The Devil

        I laught about it yesterday all day. Yet, I am quite evil.

    • Tars von Lrier

      Hear hear!

      • Latisha

        There’s a terrific amount of knowledge in this artlice!

    • DN

      I do not care if you are joking or not, but if you heard just one story from a survivor, you would be ashamed of yourself.

      But that’s what you get with the internet, anonymous cowards, like you, ‘C Men’.

      I absolutely dare you to say what you wrote in public. If you said it in my vicinity…

      • C Men

        I just yelled, “what you wrote in public” and all I got was a few strange looks. Is that what you were expecting? My turn, truth or dare?

      • Samuel

        When will you people learn that the trails and tribulations of humanity are only worth laughing at?

        Note: That was a humourous comment, ‘G Men’, and do not let anyone convince you that it was otherwise!

    • historymomma

      And your comment is why learning about the Holocaust should be mandatory for all students. Your comment is tasteless and completely uncalled for.

    • Clay

      I lol’d. Then I lol’d some more.

      • Serenay

        Thanks for stopping by my blog. How did you find me? I live in the East Bay, and know Richmond prtety well through my work in my professional capacity. How long have you lived in Richmond?

    • uranidiot

      when will you die so we can laugh that nobody attended your funeral

      • Samuel

        Judging by the number of presumably Brobdingnagian imbeciles that ‘G Men’ has provoked, probably very soon.

    • linlou

      I feel i’m falling into your trap by responding. Despite your assinine comments, you may be quite intelligent. On the off chance that you are, please use your power for good, life is too short, no need to spew poison filled words.

    • Jeremy

      you read my comment yet? Be ready. You’re going to want to be looking over your shoulder

  • GHB

    C Men, I don’t normally respond to this kind of idiocy, but fvck you, you @$$hole!

    • C Men

      Yea! Someone noticed me!

    • zaviar wun

      I’m pretty sure CMen was just making a Lars-esque tasteless joke, while winking at all of the expected posters who’d be offended. I could be wrong though, in which, case…whatever

      • C Men

        I’m gonna go with what you said.

      • brant

        I’m gonna go with everybody needs to settle the f#ck down.

    • Prue

      You know what, I’m very much incilned to agree.

  • H.I. McDunnit

    Let me translate for Ms. Schwartzbaum: “I know, I know, LVT called himself a Nazi. And also defended Hitler, ’cause you know, he wasn’t all that bad. And made a Final Solution joke for good measure. But it’s cool, see–Dude’s an ARTISTE. The rules for the rest of society do not apply to us, ze cultural elite.”
    You got a point there, Lisa. I mean, John Wayne Gacy was a pretty good painter, too.

    • Big Walt

      The whole thing would be a lot more scandalous if he weren’t Jewish.

      • brant

        What this guy said. You morons.

      • bfd

        He’s not. He was not raised a Jew. His father’s faith is of no consequence and does not make him a Jew. He’s an A**HOLE.

    • hhu32

      Ok the guy made some stupid jokes let’s compare him to a pedophiliac serial killer… LVT’s dad is jewish and LVT is definitely not a nazi, he’s just eccentric and has no filter.

      • Frank Anderson

        I wonder if you or Lisa give Mel Gibson the same treatment. The idea that he couldnt have these feelings because he is Jewish is ludicrous!

    • colin

      I don’t think your Schwarzbaum translator is working very well.

    • brant

      John Wayne Gacy was not a good painter. At all.

      He also sucked at burying bodies.

    • Samuel

      “But it’s cool, see–Dude’s an ARTISTE.”

      I detect a hint of sarcasm in your post, ‘McDunnit’, so I am going to inquire of how you could perceive the above quotation as being anything other than a valid excuse.

      How could you perceive the above quotation as being anything other than a valid excuse?

  • Pittner

    If Mel Gibson is vilified for comments that he’s made while drunk and depressed then Von Trier should get the same treatment.

    • bill

      i just had sex with your mother and she lamented how painfully stupid you are.

      • Tom

        Ad hominem to the max. You lose, sorry, try again later

      • bill

        you expect me to reason with his comparison? in sum: guilty as charged, but the only sensible response.

      • Mrs. Pittner

        and it was gooood.

    • Michel

      Yeah, we got obnoxious, but DUDE there were free didlos involved. Want me and Britt to throw you a Twitter party? You gotta bring the *goods* tho.Reply by on March 14th, 2009 at Saturday, March 14, 2009 @ 12:38 amFree didlos are always good. Drew should totally pay you money for the party you threw!Reply by on March 14th, 2009 at Saturday, March 14, 2009 @ 12:41 amOh he’s paying all right! You I will be charging in lap dances.

  • pie thrower

    I am so sick and tired of these celebrities who make these sick comments of predjudice and hate only to be rewarded with accolades for their artisitic merit. Hollywood and the press has become tolerable of these attitudes and dispositions and have clearly ignored the fact that the Holocaust ended only less than 80 years ago. This is not event that happened in Roman times people. Mass genocide happened on a grand scale and it still does.

    But still Kirsten Dunst (bless this woman) will sit next to this anti-Semite a-hole and tolerate his nonsense and yet she will STILL make another film with him.

    Ms. Dunst, have you no more morals or scruples left???? Heck, you would probably generate thunderous applause walking off the stage right then and there. You would be on every news show because finally you would be the one celebrity who would not tolerate predjudice. But alas, you are just as ignorant as the rest of them. If Von Trier said he slaughtered and buried a Jew in his backyard, followed by a “just kidding,” you would still feel “uncomfortable” and you would still lack the nerve to walk away.

    • Pie is dumb

      pie you are stupid…STUPID..DUmb in other words..

    • C Men

      You know he was joking about his next movie being a p orn starring Dunst, right?

      • pie thrower

        Saying Israel is a pain in the a– and sympathising with Hitler is not something to laugh at.

        Do you suppose it was funny when Great Britain would say the 13 colonies are a pain in the a–? Enough people believed that and you would not live in a free country of tolerance and hope.

        Do empathize with demagogues like Osama Bin Laden, or maybe you are kidding about that right????

        Don’t bury your head in the sand. History does repeat itself and eventually a joke can lead to a very tangible and frightening truth.

      • C Men

        What’s that got to do with him joking about his next movie?

      • Dayana

        I saercehd a bunch of sites and this was the best.

    • Rhys


  • Tom

    I’ve seen public figures make quotes way more harmless than this one, and still get absolutely crucified by journalists for it. What makes von Trier so special, Lisa? Why do you hand pick this one, out of countless others, to defend?

  • dan ehrl

    Pie and McDunnit, you apparently live in a world where everyone is on perfect behavior all the time and everything is to be taken literally. People say stupid stuff all the time. Deal with it. Lars Von Trier is not Anti-semitic for saying what he said. He’s just a little weird and a little dumb. And Pittner, Mel Gibson’s father is a Holocaust denier. So when Mel Gibson says awful things about Jews, people’s alarm bells, naturally, go off. There’s no comparison to be made.

  • chris

    He’s being sarcastic – with all the “sensitivity” surrounding saying something like “I can understand Hitler” can bring the mob out with torches and such. Understanding someone DOES NOT mean being that person.

  • H.I. McDunnit

    “In a world where everything is perfect all of the time and everything is to be taken literally” sounds like the beginning of a v/o for a really bad movie trailer.
    If you go back and read my post you’ll see that my ire is directed more at LS’s reaction to LVT than to LVT. He’s a pretentious eurotrash shock-jockey. I expect that when his string is pulled he will say something goofy. But I guess I want to live “in a world where critics take a TO from worshipping at the altar of ‘art’ just long enough to retain their moral compass.” When a dude defends Hitler and the empathizes with Nazi’s, there is only one appropriate reaction. It’s not, “back off, man, he’s an autuer.” It’s, “Shame on you.”

    Hate speech is hate speech, whether you are a drunk actor, a fashion designer, a director, or the guy fixing my toilet. You either get that or you don’t.

  • H.I. McDunnit

    Come on, man. I know sarcasm, as my wife and anyone who knows me can attest. I traffic in it on a fairly regular basis. LVT was, AT BEST, intentionally being (as he would call it) ‘provocative.’ If I were a snobby kinda fella I would say that seems to be his ‘raison d’etre.’ But I’m not so I won’t. The point is, at best he said some junk to get more pub for his movie. If so, mission accomplished. Worst case, though, he’s a deeply disturbed anti-semite. I don’t know the guy so I won’t presume to know which. All I know is the words are profoundly offensive on their face, either way.

    LVT has the right to be offensive, but resonable people have an obligation to call him on it. That’s all I’m sayin’.

    • Ronnie

      Hay que ver que la ignorancia si es arievtda pero lo peor de todo es la envidia que la gente pueda sentir por alguien que simplemnte no se quedo como nsotros, porque todos tenemos suef1os pero son pocos lo que lo logran y aquellos que solo saben criticar, y menospreciar a alguien es porque de alguna manera quieren un poco de esa suerte como la llaman muchos y eso les genera frustracion, envidia, e infinidad de cosas negativas, pero mi querido amigo si no le gusta algo para que lo mira porque esta mas enterado que yo de la vida de marbelle. dejeme darle un consejo si no le gusta marbelle pues no se tome la molestia de escribir tanto y dediquese a ver otras cosas que si le interesen y merezcan su apreciacion. Asi si leeria sus articulos para enterarme de cosas que solo usted se ha puesto en la tarea de investigar que bien lo felicito por toda esa informacion.Ah y consiga novia para que le quite esa amargura que lleva adentro, talvez sea eso lo que le falta una mujeer.. jajaxime

  • H.I. McDunnit

    REASONABLE people also have an obligation.

  • Sure Lisa… we should LAUGH about the Holocaust…

    The fact that it’s a joke makes it worse. So you are saying that if you family was murdered or hurt by the Nazis, then it would be OKAY to make light of such a serious and sensitive subject? I don’t this quip is Von Trier’s version of “Life is Beautiful.” That there’s a decent argument for the power of humor to defeat something horrible. No, this is simply Von Trier’s ego and insecurity expressing itself through in his bullying worldview. That you defend it, Lisa, makes you just as insecure and pathetic.

    • Samuel

      Nothing is exempt from parody.

  • keith

    Sigh. I’m a big fan of von Trier’s work and can’t wait to see this movie. But I’m still kind of irritated that he said what he did. I don’t find it particularly amusing, not because I think he meant it. I don’t think he meant it. But because now the focus will be on his statements and not his work. And, Lisa, he should know better. that’s the risk you take when you want to provoke. He should let he work speak for itself. So I’m in the middle. I support him as an artist, but I’m still not crazy about him being so irresponsible with his words.

  • Samuel

    Triar is probably going to go for Muslims next. Now THAT would get him killed within an hour!

  • Lisa is a pinhead

    Don’t defend this guy Lisa. What he did was wrong. Cannes has gone as far to ban the guy (FINALLY) and you are apparently too immature or unintelligent to understand the inappropriateness of Holocaust humor. He wasn’t doing it to bring smiles to the face of those who suffered ala “Jakob the Liar.” Von Trier simply has a chip on his shoulder and his is deeply immature and decidedly to have a temper tantrum. You are equally immature for being an enabler to misogynistic bullies like him and other (like Mel Gibson as well.) You give women critics a bad name.

    • dave

      What is the chip on his shoulder you are referring to? You apparently have some insight into his thinking.

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