Don’t try to defend Lars von Trier. He is now denouncing himself.
The Danish director was expelled from the Cannes Film Festival last week after making some bad-taste jokes about being a Nazi, sympathizing with Hitler, and considering Israelis “a pain in the ass.” He apologized immediately, and obviously wasn’t being serious — though the remarks will still hurtful to many.
Even those close to him, such as Kirsten Dunst, who won the festival’s best actress prize for her role in his end-of-the-world drama Melancholia, have criticized him for what he said in the movie’s press conference, calling his remarks “idiotic.”
But when the oppressive Iranian government leaps to your defense with a letter slamming the festival …? Apparently, von Trier has decided he doesn’t need friends like that.
He denounced his own remarks anew today …
Von Trier didn’t try to defend his statements, but tried to explain his attempted point in clumsily comparing himself to one of history’s worst monsters:
“In my opinion, freedom of speech, in all its shapes, is part of the basic human rights,” von Trier wrote. “However, my comments during the festival’s press conference were unintelligent, ambiguous and needlessly hurtful.”
“My intended point was that the potential for extreme cruelty, or the opposite, lies within every human being, whatever nationality, ethnicity, rank or religion. If we only explain historical disasters with the cruelty of individuals we destroy the possibility of understanding the human mechanisms, which in turn are necessary in order to avoid any future crimes against humanity.”
The statement came in response to the Iranian government’s letter of protest to the Cannes Film Festival over von Trier’s expulsion. But not only has Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust a “myth” and called for the destruction of Israel, but Iran has a hostile relationship with the Cannes festival, which this year featured a smuggled work, This Is Not a Film, about its imprisoned filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who is facing a six-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban on filmmaking for criticizing the regime.
Last year, an empty seat was included in the jury because of Panahi’s detention in Iran. So when the Iranian government saw a chance to hit back over Von Trier’s personal banishment from the festival as a violation of free speech, the director chose to side with the festival for banning him.
In other words, an abusive dictator is sympathizing with him this time. But von Trier has learned not to accept such comparisons.
On Twitter: @Breznican.