Director Lars Von Trier: 'OK, I'm a Nazi'

Phil Boehmke
Some confessions are harmless.  For example, I have never watched any of Lars Von Trier’s films.  This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, as my cinematic tastes run more towards John Wayne and Gary Cooper (friendly HUAC witnesses back in the good old days).

Some confessions are offensive beyond belief.  The Jerusalem Post reports that Lars Von Trier came out of his bunker yesterday before a stunned audience at the Cannes film festival.  Von Trier’s comments during the press conference for his latest film “Melancholia” are deeply disturbing.

“What can I say?  I understand Hitler.  I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end.”

“I think I understand the man.  He’s not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit.  But come on, I’m not for the Second World War, and I’m not against the Jews.”

“I am of course very much for Jews.  No, not too much because Israel is a pain in the ass.  But still, how can I get out of this sentence?”  He expressed admiration for Nazi architect Albert Speer before ending another rambling sentence with: “OK, I’m a Nazi.”  One reporter asked whether he could imagine making a movie that was even bigger in scale than “Melancholia.”  “Yeah, that’s what we Nazis…we have a tendency to try to do things on a greater scale.  Yeah, maybe you could persuade me.”  He also muttered “the final solution with journalists.”…

Kirsten Dunst who starred in “Melancholia” was caught off guard by Von Trier’s bizarre comments, but didn’t bail on her director saying only “Lars, that was intense.”  Intense? 

Wednesday evening Von Trier issued a carefully worded apology, "If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize." 

According to Wickipedia Von Trier was raised in Denmark by communist parents who practiced nudism, not exactly the ideal environment for the cultivation of traditional moral values.  It is not unusual for children brought up in such circumstances to achieve success and seek out careers in which they have the power to influence society and present their twisted views as “normal.”  Von Trier’s next project is said to be “Nymphomania.” 

Can you imagine the damage that Von Trier could have done if he had kept his true beliefs under wraps and had chosen a career as a community organizer or politician?  

Update from Thomas Lifson (who spent many years haunting art house cinemas in decades past):

Lars Trier (he personally added the "von" -- which connotes nobility -- supposedly as a tribute to Josef von Sternberg) has long been the darling of cineastes. He was one of the founders of Dogma 95, a "collective" of younger filmmakers who for a few years were the hottest thing in the artsy film world, insisting on using hand held cameras and various other gimmicks indicating their scorn for big budget Hollywood films. So of course, all the cool Hollywood types adore him. Here is a sampling of comments about him drawn from the IMDB movie site:

The year von Trier won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, he almost did not attend the ceremony. He has so many phobias, he could only make the trip in a specially outfitted trailer.

Steven Spielberg offered him the chance to direct a film in America after he saw Europa (1991) but von Trier turned the script down.

He was awarded UNICEF's 'Cinema for Peace Award' at the 2004 Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival). He got the award because almost all of his films deal with subjects like mercy and ethics

Many famous directors and actors have shown their appreciation of Lars von Trier's work. Quentin Tarantino mentions Von Trier's Dogville as his idea of the best manuscript ever written, Paul Thomas Anderson said he would "carry Lars von Trier's luggage anywhere", Martin Scorsese has Von Trier's 'Breaking the Waves' listed on his top 10 films of the 90s, and Johnny Depp recently said this in a Danish film magazine: "Tell Von Trier I'm waiting for an offer, when he is ready, so am I".

In 1995, his dying mother told her son on her deathbed that the man he believed was his father was, in fact, was not. Following her death, he tracked down his biological father, a 90-year-old man who after four combative meetings told him that, if he wanted to speak to him again, he could do it through his lawyer.

Broke up with his pregnant wife and moved in with their (much younger) babysitter. [1996]

Some confessions are harmless.  For example, I have never watched any of Lars Von Trier’s films.  This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, as my cinematic tastes run more towards John Wayne and Gary Cooper (friendly HUAC witnesses back in the good old days).

Some confessions are offensive beyond belief.  The Jerusalem Post reports that Lars Von Trier came out of his bunker yesterday before a stunned audience at the Cannes film festival.  Von Trier’s comments during the press conference for his latest film “Melancholia” are deeply disturbing.

“What can I say?  I understand Hitler.  I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end.”

“I think I understand the man.  He’s not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit.  But come on, I’m not for the Second World War, and I’m not against the Jews.”

“I am of course very much for Jews.  No, not too much because Israel is a pain in the ass.  But still, how can I get out of this sentence?”  He expressed admiration for Nazi architect Albert Speer before ending another rambling sentence with: “OK, I’m a Nazi.”  One reporter asked whether he could imagine making a movie that was even bigger in scale than “Melancholia.”  “Yeah, that’s what we Nazis…we have a tendency to try to do things on a greater scale.  Yeah, maybe you could persuade me.”  He also muttered “the final solution with journalists.”…

Kirsten Dunst who starred in “Melancholia” was caught off guard by Von Trier’s bizarre comments, but didn’t bail on her director saying only “Lars, that was intense.”  Intense? 

Wednesday evening Von Trier issued a carefully worded apology, "If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize." 

According to Wickipedia Von Trier was raised in Denmark by communist parents who practiced nudism, not exactly the ideal environment for the cultivation of traditional moral values.  It is not unusual for children brought up in such circumstances to achieve success and seek out careers in which they have the power to influence society and present their twisted views as “normal.”  Von Trier’s next project is said to be “Nymphomania.” 

Can you imagine the damage that Von Trier could have done if he had kept his true beliefs under wraps and had chosen a career as a community organizer or politician?  

Update from Thomas Lifson (who spent many years haunting art house cinemas in decades past):

Lars Trier (he personally added the "von" -- which connotes nobility -- supposedly as a tribute to Josef von Sternberg) has long been the darling of cineastes. He was one of the founders of Dogma 95, a "collective" of younger filmmakers who for a few years were the hottest thing in the artsy film world, insisting on using hand held cameras and various other gimmicks indicating their scorn for big budget Hollywood films. So of course, all the cool Hollywood types adore him. Here is a sampling of comments about him drawn from the IMDB movie site:

The year von Trier won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, he almost did not attend the ceremony. He has so many phobias, he could only make the trip in a specially outfitted trailer.

Steven Spielberg offered him the chance to direct a film in America after he saw Europa (1991) but von Trier turned the script down.

He was awarded UNICEF's 'Cinema for Peace Award' at the 2004 Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival). He got the award because almost all of his films deal with subjects like mercy and ethics

Many famous directors and actors have shown their appreciation of Lars von Trier's work. Quentin Tarantino mentions Von Trier's Dogville as his idea of the best manuscript ever written, Paul Thomas Anderson said he would "carry Lars von Trier's luggage anywhere", Martin Scorsese has Von Trier's 'Breaking the Waves' listed on his top 10 films of the 90s, and Johnny Depp recently said this in a Danish film magazine: "Tell Von Trier I'm waiting for an offer, when he is ready, so am I".

In 1995, his dying mother told her son on her deathbed that the man he believed was his father was, in fact, was not. Following her death, he tracked down his biological father, a 90-year-old man who after four combative meetings told him that, if he wanted to speak to him again, he could do it through his lawyer.

Broke up with his pregnant wife and moved in with their (much younger) babysitter. [1996]