Lars von Trier Banned from Cannes for Nazi Comments

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?



  • I watched the video last night, that guy is text book self destructive. He really can not stop himself from inflicting personal pain. You see him knowing he should stop talking but he can’t, classic! the few chuckles from the audience really egg him on.

  • Fatbologna

    Jesus, it’s pretty obvious he was joking. He’s always come off as an extremely sarcastic dude to me in interviews and this is no different. People are so goddamned sensitive. Pussies.

  • Max Hofman

    Poor, adorable Kirsten Dunst…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LayW8aq4GLw

  • I gotta side with Chubbysausage on this one and agree that everyone is being a giant collective pussy. I haven’t watched the video and maybe that will give some context that will make it seem more inflammatory, but I’m inclined to doubt that. As someone who is regularly misunderstood, only half the time intentionally, it doesn’t even seem to me like he was trying to get a rise on purpose. Reads to me like a person who was simultaneously speaking without much forethought, and assuming the humor in what had occurred to him would immediately be understood by everyone else as well. He was trying to be funny and failed. So he tried to backpedal/explain without making things worse and failed miserably.

  • So Max posted a link while I was typing out my own comments, so now I’ve seen him say it and I stand by my statements completely. He made a poor joke at a poor time in front of a poor audience. When it became clear they were responding the wrong way he immediately tried to talk thru it, effectively convincing the audience the exact opposite of what he probably hoped they’d interpret. Poor sap.

  • ej

    “provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation”
    The freedom to ban what they don’t like.

  • cinekill

    I alway thought of Van Trier as a recluse. I never knew he had a reputation of being an “attention whore”. Has he done this sort of thing in the past?

  • Lars Von Tired

    I wonder what this will do regarding his upcoming work with Scorsese ?

    Although Marty is not one to shy away from controversy.

  • swarez

    This is such bullshit. Utter utter bullshit. The guy was clearly joking but it seems that there are some things you can never poke fun at or else people are going in to massive knee jerk mode and spouting the first inane thing that pops up in their head.

  • pdm

    Child rapists are allowed, making glib statements about Nazism is not.
    Good to know Cannes.

  • Kasper

    So they ban Trier for this while people at the festival celebrate Gibson (a proven antisemitic) for The Beaver? Err…

  • Von Trier is probably loving this.

  • kyri

    Jess.. those jews have zero sense of humor.

  • Andrew is correct. This is part and parcel for LvT. Being banned from Cannes has probably never made him more happy. His history with polanski is pretty funny too, as Polanski was head of one of the Juries judinging an early LvT film:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13455855

  • Gil

    Definitely overreacted.

  • so we give him credit for being one of the most cerebral writer / directors around but then give him a pass saying people misunderstood him?! seems like a double standard since I would think the more cerebral the person – the less likely they would misjudge the situation. for example when a guy like vincent gallo says something like this I tend to believe he is just an idiot looking for effect. I don’t put LvT in that category. i think he really believes this stuff and misjudged the situation. then his self destructive side came out. (its all in the video) I think he was honest and you people are not believing him.

  • its all in the video, at one point he realizes his point is not coming across, or, he realizes that it is a complex answer. he both turns to Kristen and states, “there is an end here…” and then later says, “how do I get out of this sentence?” those are things you say when you have talked yourself in to a corner, not when you are making a joke.

  • Ben

    Rus, the issue is Von Trier ISN’T cerebral. He makes stuff that appears to have meaning under the surface, but it’s, in fact, just bullshit. This joke is the same. There’s no subversive message he’s trying to get across through the joke. It’s just him being pleased with himself, and his “sense of humor,” too much.

    I think you’re ridiculous if you think he was being serious and your “self destructive” assessment makes no sense.

  • Jonny Ashley

    That doesn’t sound very fair for the rest of the cast and crew who worked on his movie. The punishment sounds a little harsh, but maybe he should have held his tongue on behalf of them.

  • Ryan Marlow

    “So they ban Trier for this while people at the festival celebrate Gibson (a proven antisemitic) for The Beaver? Err…”

    This.

  • Ben seriously? your opinion on his films is in the minority and you could make that argument about any piece art/artist. In the realm of todays working directors, LvT ranks as one of the more thought provoking directors out there. anyway, that is not the issue. The issue is if it was a joke or something more. just as the liquor Mel Gibson consumed allowed his hidden feelings to come out i believe LvT slipped up and COULD have negative views on jews. Im surprised people seem to think this isn’t possible or is a joke. He wouldn’t be the first privileged white person to feel this way. I run in to them all the time.

  • also, if you watch the first 40 mins. of the press conf. you will see the cerebral LvT. EVERYTHING he does on screen is planned and thought about. more evidence of that than the other direction.

  • He was joking, he backpedaled when the joke maybe went on a bit long and was not hitting the room, his ‘I sympathize with Hitler’ was (i believe) meant to evoke that Hitler must have been damn depressed at the bunker all alone with everything falling down, and since LvT just delivered a film about depression, it seems apropos for the press conference.

    You are reacting in real time, on little sleep, and then doing a bit of performance art, mocking of the whole festival-press institution and things are bound to go badly, but Cannes booting the guy because he said some bad things, considering they give a free pass for the films seems contradictory.

    it was a tempest in a teapot and the festival organizers legitimized things by responding.

    I guess the Cannes folk believe that no press is bad press, and a boring festival (outside the Tree of Life reviews) all of a sudden started getting headlines.

  • so he was tried enough to give a bad delivery of a joke but not tired enough to slip up and reveal a secret belief? right. and could it be that cannes officials have see this behavior behind closed doors but never in front of cameras…hmmmmmm? you assume he was joking but you can’t assume this was his only time to speak ill of jews? really Mel was joking too…so was OJ…there is no darkness in the world…its all popsicles and lollipops. get real, the video evidence is at best 50 / 50 either way

  • Henrik

    LvT has said time and time again, that his movies are intellectual masturbation, attempts at tricking an audience, with no political message, social consciusness or any deeper meaning whatsoever. He is very smart, and he likes to play around with his toys. And he knows a shitton about photography. That translates into arthouse filmmaker.

    He’s mentally ill as well, so that plays into it. Afterall, comparing yourself to Hitler could be seen as the ultimate self-deprecation could it not?

  • Fatbologna

    Rus,
    It’s called sarcasm. It’s something the Europeans excel at. He was definitely fucking around. You can tell he thinks the entire institution of Cannes is a big sham and he was trying to make fun of himself and the fest. You do understand that not everyone smiles when they’re joking, right?

    Also, it’s a fairly common case that artistically intelligent people aren’t always the greatest in public. He seems like one of those folks.

    Henrik and Kurt both hit the nail on the head here. You seem to just want to believe the worst and play the role of the incensed, PC asshole with a shitty sense of humor.

    No wonder you thought Bridesmaids was the greatest comedy of all time. OOOOHHH!! TROLLED, SON!

  • Ryan Marlow

    Something to note: english isn’t LvT’s first language. I’d guess what he was trying to say is a lot less inflammatory than what came out of his mouth.

    From watching the video I agree with Kurt, he was trying to be humorous with a dash of irreverence and just lost himself in a poorly formed thought. What was the question though? I guess Melancholia has Nazi descendants in it?

  • Derek McFarland

    Just saw the clip….. man that shit was painful ta watch, and I know Dunst must have felt awkward as hell, sittin there lookin like a member of the Nazi party, while havin ta listen to this guy talk out of his ass. All she could do was laugh out of embarrassment, while probably praying for him to shut the fuck up.

    @ Lars Von Trier….
    Think before you open your face and speak. I don’t really think they overreacted, too much. If Lars was the President of the U.S. and said some shit like that, it would have been his undoing; weather he was trying ta make a joke or not.

    You don’t go into a blues bar and tell the crowd that you’re in the kkk, and don’t have a problem with light skinned folks but hate dark skinned folks, (in a “joking” sense) with a point you can’t finish; then not expect ta get your ass kicked.
    Maybe he didn’t mean what he said and maybe he did…. we’ll never know. But weather or not he was joking, he should have kept that shit to himself. It would have been safer for him….Usually any kind of joke pertaining to Nazis & Jews is a sensitive joke, not exactly meant for the press, to hear you say. You could see it in Kirsten Dunst’s eyes that Lars fucked up big time, cause she knew exactly what the press was gonna do with that footage. She wanted to tell Lars,
    “YOU’RE FUCKED!” but she knew it would be unladylike… so she just laughs in nervousness.

    Dumbass!LOL

  • Fatbologna – making things personal and calling names on boards when people are having a healthy debate is trolling. LvT’s own lead actress thought it wasn’t a joke AND SHE WAS THERE. grow up

  • oh and me not getting what everyone here INCLUDING YOU state is a failed attempt at humor relates to my view on Bridesmaids? Do you see how weak your logic and attempt at tying two topics together is?

  • kyri

    Rus, that chick Dunst you throw out as an argument is after all just that: a chick, chicks do not get sarcasm most of the time, so just because she didn’t think it was a joke it doesn’t mean it was not a joke. In fact that makes it even more funny for the rest of us who get it because we can laugh with her reaction as well.

    Anyway let’s assume that he was not joking although I am quite sure he was. Let’s assume that he was stating an opinion.

    What is wrong with expressing an opinion?

    “I Understand Hitler. I don’t think he was a good guy but I understand why he did what he did.”
    Why is that offensive? I understand why bin laden attacked the Us. Does that make me a Taliban?

    He said Israel is a pain in the ass.

    Is this a lie?

    .. “punishing” a guy like LVT for expressing just an opinion doesn’t make you any better than a Nazi in my books. But hey, you know what they say.. jews are the new Nazis, right?

    (sarcasm)

  • I don’t have a problem with him expressing views. I started the chat by commenting what a wild example of self destructive behavior it was. (READ THE FIRST POST) good theatre, yo. I actually like his films and do think he is cerebral. but he also can be an asshole that makes good films, like say – Mel Gibson. maybe his wild views produce the films. whatever, I’m fine with that.

    what I think is laughable is how so many people here get bent-out-of-shape when I pose the possibility he was sincere. really? is this guy your uncle? I can understand if people feel the need to lash out at the PC world that suffocates them, but don’t use that as a mask for logical thought. like I said a few posts ago – the video is at best 50 /50 either way.

    in my final comment here, I was joking about everything I have said previous, therefore, by Fatbologna’s own rules, that insulates me from any criticism or discussion of what I said. we will now call it the LvT Rule – follow anything with “I’m joking” and you are free and clear.

    Good Day!

  • Yes, chicks clearly don’t get sarcasm. Way too subtle for them.

  • Scuv

    Sure he may have been joking, but FUCK what a fucking retard. Has he no idea the press would latch on to a quote like that, or is this part of something bigger for him. Or maybe he just wants to whop it out and jizz on everyone with his eyes closed.

  • Darksiders

    Seriously sounds like a bunch of pussy nerds on this blog that obviously don’t understand the severity of his words, even if he is joking. When is it alright to joke about being a Nazi or sympathizing with a man that exterminated 6,000,000 people?

    You’ve been cooped up too long in middle america where all you have to worry about is when you’re outta hot pockets, when’s the next filmjunk podcast and speculate about what the new Batman is all about.

    Hitler + Nazi’s invade France. Killed many of its Jews. Killed many more people including Americans.

    You’re right. He is free to speak his mind just as much as the festival is free to ban him.

  • Derek McFarland

    @kyri

    Only if you state, at the “end of your point” that you are a Taliban, like LVT stated he was a Nazi; toward the end of his point.

    No matter if he was joking or not… one thing that’s certain is that Lars fucked himself; and from now on, he should straight up stick to drama, and stay the fuck away from stand up…. cause he really sucks at it. Him getting kicked out of Cannes is pure evidence of that.

  • Darksiders

    @Kyri

    He didn’t just say he understood Hitler he said he sympathizes with Hitler. Big difference.

    You’re right. If you say you understand Bin Laden. Great. But if you say you sympathize with him then it’s a different story altogether.

    Cannot believe why people can’t understand that.

    And whether is about Jews or not, can’t you as an American be bothered knowing that he caused WW2 and therefore Americans died because of that as well? Even on a more basic level he exterminated over 6,000,000 HUMANS?

  • Johnnyboy

    >>”He said Israel is a pain in the ass.

    Is this a lie?”

    No, it’s completely true. Since the mid 1970’s there has been votes for a resolution in the UN of the two state solution. It has always been the whole world on one side and the US and Israel on the other. Israeli crimes are condemned all over the world. They can only survive with their unacceptable breach of human rights and international law through American diplomatic, economic and military support. It’s like the South African Foreign Minister said to the US in the 50’s, when they understood they were becoming a pariah state in the world: We all know only one vote counts, and that’s yours.
    And he was right, South-Africa managed to do what it did up until the US changed its policy in the late 80’s, and short after apartheid collapsed.

  • kyri

    @Darksiders
    Actually 73.000.000 HUMANS died during WW2 because of Hitler but anyway… (non Jews are called humans as well)

    @Johnyboy

    It is what it is!

    @Derek

    I think “Anyway I am a NAZI!” was the definition of sarcasm ()..

  • Darksiders

    @kyri – that’s exactly my point. maybe it’s time you revisit reading comprehension? do not pass go. do not collect $200.

  • kyri

    So, you say Jews are not humans..
    Nazi. Go straight to Jail.

  • Derek McFarland

    @kyri

    Well his “definition” of sarcasm sucks.
    Like I said…. He should probably stick to drama, cause this shit is clearly gonna fuck up the money count on his recent film, do to those who might have been offended by his so called humor. Was there even a punchline to that crap that was fallin out of his face?
    I’m more than sure that the majority of the main cast and producers of this film didn’t find this shit all that funny; especially in front of all those cameras.

    Just out of curiosity….
    Did YOU personally enjoy his,
    “I’m a Nazi/Hate Jews & Sympathize with Hitler” joke?

    I mean were you just sitting there watching this clip, saying to yourself….
    “Man… this guy’s awesomely hilarious! I can’t believe Cannes banned him, for saying he’s a Nazi and states that he hates Israelis.”?

    You think he should start making comedies?