Iconoclastic Danish director Lars von Trier premiered his new end-of-the-world film Melancholia yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival — but it was his comments at a press conference afterwards which really had the press buzzing.
Von Trier — whose work ranges from the outstanding (such as Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark) to the teeth-grindingly unbearable (Dogville) — is an outspoken critic of Israel, the United States, and Western values in general, so his bizarre post-screening comments didn’t come as a total surprise…but still:
Asked about his German heritage, von Trier launched into a rambling train of thoughts, starting with how he used to think he was a Jew and his disappointment when he learned he was not.
“I really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because, you know, my family was German,” von Trier said. “Which also gave me some pleasure. …
“What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end,” von Trier said. “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 Jews. …
“I am very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass.”
Von Trier then asked, “How can I get out of this sentence?”
Going on to say he liked Hitler aide Albert Speer, von Trier finally wrapped up with the wisecrack, “OK, I’m a Nazi.”
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?”
Considering that von Trier is a hardcore leftist, the mainstream media and chattering classes will of course give him a pass on all this. (The Reuters coverage of the press conference, for example, glosses over the anti-Israel remarks and suppresses some of the Nazi quotes.) But those who ponder the left’s endless fascination with totalitarianism, and who view contemporary anti-Israel sentiments as the new manifestation of an ancient hatred, might have a different opinion.
Really, how many times can you say “I’m a Nazi. Ha ha, just joking,” before your listeners stop hearing it as a joke?