UPDATE: Lars von Trier apologizes for Nazi comments.
Notorious wallflower Lars von Trier, director of acclaimed indies like 'Dogville,' 'Dancer in the Dark' and 'Antichrist,' did what he does best at the Cannes Film Festival press conference for his latest film, 'Melancholia,' "a beautiful movie about the end of the world" starring Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgard. And by that we mean he caused a ruckus by saying some pretty ridiculous things.
Von Trier is so well-known for saying controversial things that The Hollywood Reporter compares his press conferences to a "a dark stand-up routine." He took things a step further in Cannes yesterday, however, announcing he was "actually a Nazi" who "understands Hitler ... I sympathize with him a bit." Got that? (Update: Von Trier has issued an apology for his comments.)
And now for some context. Von Trier has a notoriously dark, envelope-pushing European sense of humor that doesn't always translate across the Atlantic. So, while he made Cannes audiences a bit uncomfortable, they laughed "with the sort of chuckle that gets caught in the throat." Others, including Dunst and co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg, were reportedly dumbstruck.
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, however, is not laughing.
In a statement, the group said:
Von Trier's comments were in many ways an attack on Danish director Susanne Bier, who won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year for 'In a Better World' and directed the acclaimed 2004 film 'Brothers,' which was remade as an American film in 2009 starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman.
Holocaust survivors condemn Von Trier's repulsive comments as an insensitive exploitation of victims' suffering for self-serving promotion and publicity. His bizarre comments may have been made in jest and for shock, but those subjected to the brutalities of the Nazi regime cannot find amusement in recalling the torture and deaths of those terrible times. We cannot give a review of his film, but as a person Von Trier is a moral failure.
The director's full comment was an obvious dig at his fellow Dane. "For a long time I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew, then I met Susanne Bier (who is Jewish) and I wasn't so happy," von Trier said. "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."
Of course, he didn't stop there: "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..."
Or even there. Asked if he would ever direct a larger film, von Trier said, "Yes. We Nazis like to do things on a big scale. Maybe I could do 'The Final Solution.'"
When not busy making light of genocide, the director set his sights on his 'Melancholia' actresses by playfully announcing his next film would be a three-to-four-hour porn film "with lots of uncomfortable sex" starring Dunst and Gainsbourg.
Sadly, (but as usual) the director's comments have overshadowed the reason he was in Cannes in the first place. 'Melancholia' was well-received by critics, with the Daily Telegraph calling the film "mesmerizing, visually gorgeous and often moving" and IndieWire declaring it a "dark apocalyptic masterpiece."
Check out the 'Melancholia' trailer below: