Over the past day or so, the blogosphere has been buzzing over filmmaker Lars von Trier’s major blunder at the Cannes Film Festival where he made inflammatory comments calling himself a Nazi and claiming to “sympathize” with Hitler. Personally, I wasn’t really planning on covering the whole ordeal because it just seemed like the desperate act of an attention whore, but now that festival organizers have decided to make the situation a little bit more newsworthy, here we are. According to a press release, Cannes has opted to flat out ban the acclaimed director from the festival, despite the fact that he also issued an apology yesterday. But is this an appropriate punishment, or are they just giving von Trier exactly what he wanted?
Yesterday morning, during the press conference for his new film Melancholia, Lars von Trier made the following statement in response to a question:
“For a long time I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew, then I met (Danish and Jewish director) Susanne Bier and I wasn’t so happy. 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. 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… Now how can I get out of this sentence? Ok. I’m a Nazi.”
It was clearly an unplanned performance of sorts, designed to get a reaction out of people in the same way that many of his movies are designed to provoke. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of thing that people take lightly, and it set off a wave of outrage. Cannes organizers immediately condemned his words and asked for an explanation. He responded by saying, “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.” It was too little, too late. The festival issued the following release this morning:
“The Festival de Cannes provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation. The Festival’s Board of Directors, which held an extraordinary meeting this Thursday 19 May 2011, profoundly regrets that this forum has been used by Lars Von Trier to express comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the Festival.
The Board of Directors firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars Von Trier a persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately.”
It’s somewhat unclear what exactly that means. Is it a permanent ban or could he be invited back next year? Von Trier has debuted many of his previous films at Cannes, and even won the Palme D’Or for Dancer in the Dark back in 2000. Either way, it is believed that he has earned himself the distinction of being the first person to be completely banned from the festival. So what do you think? Did they make the right decision or did they overreact? And could this really be a career killer for Lars von Trier?