We’re coming to the final couple of days of the Cannes Film Festival, and the once festival favourite Lars von Trier, who won the Palme d’Or in 2000 for Dancer in the Dark, has his new film Melancholia showing today. The film is described as “a beautiful film about the end of the world” and like Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life, it has split opinion. While not as controversy courting as Antichrist, it has upset critics mainly with people calling it boring.
But as usual controversy has surrounded him, and this time it has been caused by his comments at the press conference for his film, which have, and understandably so, rattled a few cages and ruffled some feathers. The press conference was attended by von Trier and stars of the film Udo Kier, John Hurt, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kirsten Dunst, Stellan Skarsgard, Brady Corbett and Jesper Christensen. However it was mainly dominated by von Trier. The faces of the panel were clearly shocked and stunned.
Let’s start with the minor controversy. First off he started talking about ‘beaver shots’ which Kirsten Dunst insisted to be added to the film, which if you know von Trier and his track record is not true. If anyone had any ideas about actors being naked they will have been his. Then he said he’s currently writing a 3 to 4 hour pornographic film with Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, with “a lot of unpleasant sex”. He later brought it up talking about orgasms and how Dunst will fake it but Charlotte will not. Saying “that is the difference with the French”. At which point Stellan Skarsgard instructed him to shut up.
The Danish filmmaker was then asked by a journalist about mental illness, von Trier himself is a confessed depressive. He then outed Kirsten Dunst as having mental problems saying: “you’ve had some experience of this, I don’t know if I am allowed to say that.” Then he went onto openly insult his other cast members drinking problems including the absent Kiefer Sutherland. But the biggest controversy of all were his comments about Nazis, here’s the transcript of what he said below:
I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew, then later on came Susanne Bier and then I wasn’t so happy about being a Jew. That was a joke. Turned out I wasn’t a Jew and I even if I was a Jew I would be a second rate Jew because there are kind of hierarchy in the Jewish community. But I really wanted to be a Jew. But then I found out I was really a Nazi. Because my family was German, which also gave me some pleasure. What can I say, I understand Hitler. But I think he did some wrong things. But I can see him sitting in his bunker, I think I understand the man, I sympathise with him a little bit. I don’t mean I’m in favour of WW2 and I’m not against Jews not even Susanne Bier. I’m for Jews, even though Israel is a pain in the ass…
I like Albert Speer, he was one of God’s best children.
Ok. I’m a Nazi.
The reaction to that has been interesting, Jason Solomons, Guardian film critic tweeted this:
Melancholia was a #cannes palme d’or contender for about 30 minutes, then Lars opened his pinched little nazi mouth – auf wiedersehen, twat
Which sums up most of the reaction in Cannes, some weren’t so offended, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, previously of At the Movies said:
Melancholia @ #Cannes. Parts, stunning. But about that Nazi standup @ press conf…Lars von Trier–1 Nutty Provocateur.
In the past Lars von Trier has been known to say outrageous things, and I would have defended him as being a prankster and a provocateur. But this is just crass and stupid, and is clearly the only way he thinks the film will achieve publicity. By him being an asshole. Clearly this will all blow over and when the film gets released we’ll hopefully base it on its own merits.
But on another level you can’t separate the art from the artist. Von Trier just needs to be slapped on the wrists and sent to bed without supper and made to realise what an offensive, little child he’s been. But this time I doubt it will do him or his film any favours. If you want to watch the whole press conference watch it here, and if you have 40 minutes free it is worth watching to see how low someone can sink.