Ed Driscoll

Botched Joke Defense In 3..2..1...

Shock headline at the Hollywood Reporter: “Lars von Trier Admits to Being a Nazi, Understanding Hitler (Cannes 2011):”

Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg look on in disbelief as the “Melancholia” director shocks at Cannes press conference, saying his next movie could be “The Final Solution.”

CANNES – Danish director Lars von Trier pulled a Mel Gibson in Cannes Wednesday, giving a shocking and hilarious press conference for his new film Melancholia in which he admitted to being a Nazi, to understanding Hitler and speculated that his next movie could be The Final Solution. Watch here.

Von Trier has never been very P.C. and his Cannes press conferences always play like a dark stand-up routine, but at the Melancholia press conference he took it to another level, tossing a grenade into any sense of public decorum. In response to a question about his Germanic roots, Von Trier set off on a long and twisted answer that, if this were America, not Cannes, would have meant career suicide.

“For a long time I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew,” he began, “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.”

Von Trier qualified that “I don’t mean I’m in favor of World War II and I’m not against Jews, not even Susanne Bier” before digging himself deeper. “In fact I’m very much in favor of them. All Jews. Well, Israel is a pain in the ass but…”

As Melancholia stars Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, sitting on either side of Von Trier, stared at him agog, the director paused.

“Now how can I get out of this sentence? Ok. I’m a Nazi.”

Oh, I know how he can get out of it, don’t you?

Or just blame it all on Bergman.

(H/T: The Rhetorican.)

Update: And here we go! At AP, “Von Trier stirs up Cannes with Hitler, Nazi quips:”

Lars von Trier brought the end of the world to the Cannes Film Festival — then the Danish director really shook things up, saying he sympathizes with Adolf Hitler, thinks Israel is a pain and plans to make a porn flick with Kirsten Dunst.Von Trier’s remarks Wednesday stirred up reporters and sparked a swift response from festival organizers, who issued a statement saying they were “disturbed” and had called the Danish director in to explain himself.

Von Trier’s publicists later released a separate statement saying the director “sincerely apologize(d)” for the comments.

“I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi,” he is quoted as saying.

* * *

Afterward, von Trier told The Associated Press the remarks just spilled out without any forethought.

“I don’t have so much to say, so I kind of have to improvise a little and just to let the feelings I have kind of come out into words,” von Trier said. “This whole Nazi thing, I don’t know where it came from, but you spend a lot of time in Germany, you sometimes want to feel a little free and just talk about this (expletive), you know?”

Dunst, Gainsbourg and other “Melancholia” co-stars, including John Hurt and Stellan Skarsgard, sat stiff and stony-faced through most of von Trier’s comments. At one point, though, Dunst leaned over and whispered to von Trier, “Oh my God, this is terrible.”

In an interview later, Dunst said von Trier felt embarrassed about the remarks.

“He likes to run his mouth,” Dunst said. “I think he dug himself in a deep hole today.”

Nice of AP to begin the rehabilitation process; I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen the word “quips” following the words “Hitler, Nazi,” even on Hogan’s Heroes.

Update: The Huffington Post is also happy to circle the wagons to tamp down any controversy:

Von Trier was clearly joking — albeit in an infantile manner — when he said that he was a Nazi and understood Hitler and later said his next film project might be The Final Solution. The director is known for his provocations and since his new movie seems to be generating indifference, he might have felt especially pressured to perform, as he so often does in the past. It’s like going to see Lenny Bruce and being shocked at the language. What did you expect? Yet The Hollywood Reporter headlined a story by saying Lars Von Trier ‘ADMITS TO BEING A NAZI.” (They should have said “tastelessly joked,” at the very most. Ultimately, the festival proved it too refused to take the words in the context they were given, denounced them and said they had spoken with Von Trier. The official press release added simply, “He presents his apology.” End of silly controversy.

And yet these things keep happening in Europe for some reason. Go figure.

Or as Zombie asks at the Tatler, “Really, how many times can you say ‘I’m a Nazi. Ha ha, just joking,’ before your listeners stop hearing it as a joke?”

Depends on who the listeners are.

Related: Oh, and speaking of the Botched Joke Defense