Von Trier apologises for Nazi comments

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The Independent Online

Director Lars von Trier has apologised after today's press conference at the Cannes Film Festival, where he told reporters he was "a Nazi" and said he could "understand Hitler".

A statement released by festival organisers said they were "disturbed" by his statements.

It went on: "Therefore the Festival asked him to provide an explanation for his comments.

"The director states that he let himself be egged on by a provocation. He presents his apology.

"The direction of the Festival acknowledges this and is passing on Lars von Trier's apology. The Festival is adamant that it would never allow the event to become the forum for such pronouncements on such subjects."

The Danish film-maker discussed Adolf Hitler, porn films and the drinking habits of some of his stars during the 40-minute session.

His film, Melancholia, is the story of two sisters, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst, and how they deal with the knowledge another planet is about to crash into Earth, destroying it.

Von Trier, who was brought up believing he was Jewish until he discovered his biological father was a German Catholic, said: "I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out I was really a Nazi, you know because my family was German."

He went on to say he could "understand Hitler", adding: "But come on, I'm not for the Second World War and I'm not against Jews."

With Dunst looking increasingly uncomfortable at his answers, von Trier asked reporters: "How can I get out of this sentence?"

Referring to the holocaust, he also said his next project might be a "final solution" but only involving journalists and said Israel was a "pain in the ass".

The eccentric film-maker gave a series of rambling answers to questions including the admission there was a chance the film, which also stars Kiefer Sutherland and is in the running for the Palme d'Or, was "crap".

He added: "Of course I hope not, but there's quite a big possibility it's really not worth seeing."

Von Trier, who is well-known for including graphic sex scenes in his films, joked Dunst had insisted his next film would be a "a porn film" and she would star in it alongside Gainsbourg.

He said: "It's going to be three or four hours long and the only reason for that is the press conference will be a little later so I can sleep a little longer."

He also said he had rejected the advice of a collaborator who warned him against putting too much nudity in his films and not to make "the mistake that many middle-aged directors, older directors, do that the women get younger and younger and more and more naked".

He told reporters: "I said, 'Don't say that to me', so now I tell you they're going to be naked and extremely young."

The press conference ended with the usually unflappable host, French intellectual Henri Behar, saying it had been a "very, very strange" session.

The film will receive its official screening tonight at the festival which runs until May 22.

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."