Von Trier stirs up controversy with Nazi claim

Rob Sharp,Arts Correspondent
Thursday 19 May 2011 00:00
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Lars von Trier has taken a vow of silence after facing charges of breaking a French law against justification of war crimes
Lars von Trier has taken a vow of silence after facing charges of breaking a French law against justification of war crimes

The Danish director Lars Von Trier, whose films have seen characters mock the handicapped and mutilate each other, has surpassed his own strong record for controversy by jokingly claiming to be a Nazi and expressing his desire to direct hard-core pornography.

The director, speaking yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival to promote his latest film Melancholia, a disaster movie set in a seaside country club, launched into a series of bizarre proclamations to the increasing bemusement of the film's star, Kirsten Dunst, who was seated alongside him at the film's official press conference.

"I understand Hitler", said Von Trier, responding to a question about his German ancestry. "I think he did some wrong things, but I can see him sitting in his bunker. I'm saying that I think I understand the man. He is not what I would call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and sympathise with him."

At this point during the press conference, Dunst appeared uncomfortable, and attempted to hide behind Von Trier's chair.

Asked whether he fancied one day tackling a blockbuster, instead of the art-house films for which he is famed, he continued: "Yes. We Nazis like to do things on a big scale. Maybe I could do the Final Solution."

The director's remarks angered US civil rights agency the Anti-Defamation League. "He seems to be struggling against some personal ghosts," a spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter yesterday. "This is one way I guess he resolved them, in a very, very bizarre way."

Yesterday, Von Trier issued a statement apologising for his remarks. "If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologise," read the statement. "I am not antisemitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi."

Von Trier is no stranger to bizarre outbursts. In 2005 he told German newspaper Die Zeit that he thought George W Bush was "in love" with Condoleeza Rice. "And he's dreaming of being whipped by her," he said.

His 1998 film The Idiots featured scenes of unsimulated sex as its characters pretended to be mentally disabled, while 2009's Antichrist showed genital self-mutilation and close-ups of an erect penis.

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At the press conference, Von Trier was just as controversial regarding questioning over forthcoming projects.

"I would like to talk about my next film, which is, Kirsten insisted, going to be a porn film," he said. "It's going to be around three or four hours long, and the only reason for that is this press conference will be a little later."

The director added there was a chance the film, which also stars Kiefer Sutherland, was "crap". "Of course I hope not, but there's quite a big possibility it's really not worth seeing," he said.

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