Banned Cannes director Lars Von Trier explains his Nazi rant

Director Lars Von Trier got banned from Cannes after some bizarre comments he made during a press conference in which he called himself a Nazi and said he could relate to Hitler. (You can read his full comments here, halfway down the page.) In part he said “I understand Hitler… I sympathize with him a bit,” then he tried to backtrack saying WWII was bad and he wasn’t against Jews, but concluded with “Now how can I get out of this sentence? Ok. I’m a Nazi.” It was all very controversial and frankly pretty dumb, and the guy got told to GTFO basically. Lars’ lead actress in his film Melancholia, Kirsten Dunst, received best actress at the festival and he wasn’t able to be there to see Kirsten get the award thanks to his big mouth.

A journalist who witnessed Von Trier’s career-ending moment asked him about it later, and he explained it like a bout of verbal diarrhea he couldn’t stop:

He greeted journalists affably, from under his pale straw hat, sitting comfortably in the garden of the super-posh hotel, the grounds surrounding us as immaculately green as those in his film.

Right off, I asked him about his infamous career-suicide comments at the press conference. In his film-notes he says Melancholia is about the longing for death.

Might Lars Von Trier himself be self-destructive?

“No, I don’t think I was being self-destructive. Well maybe on a subconscious level. I was in a good mood, and I felt everything was going well, and I couldn’t stop it. I was saying terrible things, like driving a car and going around a curve, and it was stupid, and I was very sorry. People got hurt. I respect completely their response. ”

He straightened up and changed his humble tone, like a man shifting gears in a car:

“I find it a little strange. It is obvious that I do not sympathize with Hitler, but this was taken out of context. It was stupid. Will now the festival only choose people who won’t say stupid things at press conferences? If a real criminal came up with a real art film, should he not get the Palme D’or?”

Later, he sent a public statement by email:

In my opinion, freedom of speech, in all its shapes, is part of the basic human rights. However, my comments during the festival’s press conference were unintelligent, ambiguous and needlessly hurtful. My intended point was that the potential for extreme cruelty, or the opposite, lies within every human being, whatever nationality, ethnicity, rank or religion.

[From Huffington Post]

There’s a lot more in this interview about the film Melancholia, which is a science fiction treatise on the human condition, and how it ties in to Von Trier’s self destructive streak. I watched the trailer and it looks overwrougt. It’s getting positive reviews though, with a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. At least Von Trier admits that he was an idiot. It will be quite some time before he’s able to move past this and for good reason. What a dumb ass. Look at the header image. He even pulled a Lindsay Lohan/Joaquin Phoenix and wrote “F U C K” across his knuckles. This guy does not want a career in Hollywood.




You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

44 Responses to “Banned Cannes director Lars Von Trier explains his Nazi rant”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. merski says:

    I didn’t really find that comment so controversial, to be quite honest. It was just very stupid and not funny, but I didn’t really understand why so many people were so upset about it. Maybe it’s just my inner-european speaking… I don’t get my panties in a twist just because somebody talks about Hitler…

  2. Jez says:

    “This guy does not want a career in Hollywood.”

    Uhm, NO DUH. He’s Lars von Trier, he doesn’t give a crap whatsoever about Hollywood. He would probably jump off a building if one of his movies was ever a mainstream hit. It won’t hurt him at all, this is his schtick. He says shocking things and everyone knows he’s joking but they act shocked anyway.

    @merski – aren’t Europeans the most sensitive to Hitler remarks? It’s still illegal to even mention him in Germany, no?

  3. Shay says:

    There are directors that are masters of the dark sublime genre in film and directors like Guillermo del Toro is one of those directors.

    However Von Trier is the perverted kind, who go for controversy over substance and taint their films with their own debased fantasies and neuroses. Von Trier directed porn films for god’s sake. How much art is involved in that? Nil.
    Von Trier only has a career in Europe because Europeans like to see themselves as arty types, that deviate from Hollywood hype. But his most recent outburst will slay his career or put it on hold for a while.

    The way I see it? This idiot was trying to be controversial so people would see his latest (most likely) crappy Cannes offering. His last offering featured the severing of a clitoris. I mean…c’mon. Von Trier is one sick puppy and I don’t care about freedom of speech. Every idiot hides behind the freedom of speech argument, justifying all sorts of rubbish and debased behaviour.

  4. matt says:

    “this guy does not want a career in hollywood”.

    And with that assessment his mission is accomplished! I’m sure he doesn’t care about the Hollywood machine at all.

  5. capepopsie says:

    I agree it´s his point to shock, but this will harm him. People here in Denmark/Sweden think it was stupid of him to get himself tangled upp like this, especially since his kind of “humour” is not always understood. He´s half german and a jew, anyway. I do think he stepped over a line here.

  6. Lala11_7 says:

    I got what he was saying with his remarks…it was stupid where he said them…it was stupid to say them to the paps…but I got it…and knowing him…I wondered if he did it on purpose, would we even be TALKING about the movie or him if he hadn’t opened his pie hole like that?

    However, this man…I can’t with him and his movies…

    I still owe him a HUGE can of “whup a–” for “Dogville”…and his missed opportunities with “Dancer in the Dark”…

  7. Pete says:


    No, mentioning Hitler is not illegal in Germany.

    Doing the Hitler-Salute is illegal, as is saying “Heil Hitler”, and denying the holocaust, and waering or drawing or spraying the Swastika anywhere, it is only allowed in contexts such as ducomentaries and films about the Hitler regime.

    The usage of Swastikas as in the movie “The Spirit” would be illegal for example.

  8. merski says:

    @Jez: funny thing is, I actually live in Germany. Of course it’s not illegal to mention Hitler. The thing punished by law is, for example, doing the Hitler salute, publicly singing or playing the old Nazi national anthem. But as a democratic country Germany grants everyone freedom of speech and even allows organized neo-nazi demonstrations (as long as they don’t chant anything racist or antisemitic as they go along). That is the trap of democracy, I suppose.
    I think most Europeans have a very healthy view on Hitler and WW II, which is not to say we take it lightly. In Germany it is, of course, an especially delicate subject but open discussion about those difficult things is the only way to achieve closure and healing.
    I’m not trying to fangirl Von Trier here or make any statements about his films, but, as a person whose family was directly touched by the horrors of Holocaust and concentration camps, I’d much rather have somebody treat Hitler as a sick and flawed human being than demonize him into some kind of a monster figure, because that would teach us nothing.
    This is why I wasn’t offended by this comment and neither were most of the people I talked to about it. It was just stupid, probably a publicity stunt, is all. I didn’t think it deserved that much attention, but hey, that’s exactly what he wanted…

  9. Anya says:

    Good grief, what dumb ass is upset about these comments? Cannes seems to be on a mission to ban people from thinking. Let them give the palme d’or to Kung Fu Panda 2 then.

  10. Sumodo1 says:

    Some really smart and sensitive people turned out to post on this thread. Thank you, sincerely.

  11. j says:

    I didn’t find it all that offensive either, although it was certainly a stupid thing to say.

    I understood it to mean–aside from trying to be controversial, yes–that under the right conditions, any person can be capable of crazy sorts of evil. Look at groups of people taught to hate eachother, or individuals motivated by fear: it can result in awful stuff. And what about people who stand by and do nothing? Are they blameless?

    Sorry to get all philosophical–I am in no way suggesting his remarks were appropriate. But I took it as Von Trier saying he could identify with the Jewish people in one circumstance (when he believed himself to be Jewish) and with Hitler’s potential for evil in another (when he discovered his German heritage).

  12. Chris says:

    On Lars Von Trier a Danish friend told me:

    “The impossibly deadpan delivery of irony or sarcasm is a pretty Danish thing I guess. I know foreigners often have no clue when I’m being serious or facetious at least”

    “And that Lars Von Trier for you. I was listening to Mark Kermode talking about when he had Paul Bettany in the studio for DOgville, and he told Mark a story about Von Trier that was hilarious.”

    “When he picked Bettany up the first day in his car, in Sweden where they were filming, he told him they had to make a quick stop at a gas station. And as he proceeded to go inside he asked Bettany if he wanted some porn? Confused BEttany declined, but when Von Trier came back he had whole pile of porn in his hands and threw it into the car without saying anything.”

    “Then when they got to their hotel room he placed all the porn on the bed so it was quite visible, he then told Paul he needed to get something and he should just wait there. 5 minutes later he came back with Nicole Kidman who hadn’t met Paul Bettany yet, and as they walk into the room with Bettany sitting on the bed full of porn Von Trier says to Nicole in a complete straight face: “Have you seen how much porn Paul Bettany has?”

    I love Lars. :)

  13. curmudgeon says:

    If you think about all the drugs, infidelity, child brides, sex tapes, love children, public drunkenness etc. that happens these days in celebrity culture that would have spelled certain doom in years past for stars.
    So THIS is the end of someone’s carreer?

  14. Solveig says:

    Von Trier gives a ratt’s a** about HW, and to be honest, it’s not like every director of this world outside the US aspires to be involved in HW’s processes and crazy stardom and useless stuff.
    As for what he said, I already knew he didn’t mean what he said, and I also read somewhere that he recently found out that his real father wasn’t the man who married his mother and fathered him for years – a Jew man – but a German man, I think that his speech came from his experience of discovering himself a different person of different roots.
    Here in Europe you can’t say anything against Jews, they are off limits, that also means that if you dare to criticize Israel’s genocide of Palestinian people you are an insensitive communist asshole…

  15. Stacy says:

    In the immortal words of Rick James: “Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.”

  16. Fabianne says:

    I watched the press conference and I personally believe this was all blown out of proportion.

    Anne Thompson’s interview actually has a video component. I thought it was very good. LvT should do one-on-one interviews from now on.

    BTW, the F-U-C-K tattoo was actually inspired by Sean Penn’s The Indian Runner.

  17. Amandahugandkiss says:

    yes, Lars, you have freedom of speech. And I shall express my freedom of speech when I say you are a total bell-end.

  18. Eve says:

    When people will understand that there are certain things you simply don’t tell jokes about. War crimes and tragedies like the one in Japan. Do not joke about it. Period.

  19. Ally says:

    Have you not seen ‘Antichrist’? He doesn’t care about Hollywood :) , that’s why I like his movies!

  20. endoplasmic_ridiculum says:


    It’s not really effective to refer to ‘Europeans’ as a general mindframe..Just as it would be stupid to refer to ‘Americans’ as one persona…

    Poles are nothing like the French who are nothing like the Czech who are nothing like the Spanish.

    Generality is the enemy of accuracy.

  21. hairball says:

    It becomes a very dangerous thing to start punishing people for what they say. Let the consequences of their comments hit them socially/economically etc, but don’t throw them out of a festival or pass laws against it.

    After 9/11, it was a scary time here in the U.S. – if you dared criticize Bush or said anything against the administration you were labeled ‘with the terrorists’.

    I have no idea why he would say he sympathized with Hitler etc, what an IDIOTIC and wtf statement to say when promoting your movie. But, if people didn’t like it, then they can show it by not going to his movie, not working with him, telling him his comments were terrible etc, but NOT throwing him out of a festival where you are supposed to be expressing freely.

  22. Enny says:

    @Solveig, first of all, genocide? Like to see your sources on that gem. So defending yourself in a war you did not cause and then having the nerve to dictate the terms of the peace when you’re victorious is suddenly tantamount to the Holocaust? Umm…okay, given we’re on the eve of a holiday weekend here in the States, I’ll be extra generous and just leave that one alone. Second of all, most of Europe is quite taken with the Palestinian “plight”, if anything, it’s actually the opposite dynamic to what you present. And can we please have a post about Jews that does NOT devolve into okay, the Holocaust was MAYBE tragic, but those poor Palestinians who lost their land! Yeah, spare me. Lars Von Trier is an a$$hat, and so are you if you defend that sentiment.

  23. original kate says:

    this story baffles me.

  24. KJ says:

    Trust me, Lars Von Trier is not trying to “make it” in Hollywood. Have you seen his films? None of them are Hollywood friendly. That’s never been his concern. He’s an idiot who loves to stir the pot, but he’s also someone who doesn’t give a rats ass what mainstream media thinks. I think if he became some big Hollywood director, he’d kill himself. Honestly.

    He’s not over. He’s not done. And he certainly hasn’t ended his career. His career was never about good press at all. Ever.

  25. sam says:

    Lets take what he said and switch it around: “For a long time I thought I was an abolitionist and I was happy to be an abolitionist,” [von Trier] began, But then I found out I was actually relatd to John C Calhoun. My family were plantation owners. And that also gave me some pleasure. What can I say? I understand slavery…I sympathize with him a bit.”

    If he had said that you all would be up in arms. When you say Hitler the first thing you think is “antisemetic loon who killed 6 million Jews and 4 million other “less desirables”. There is rarely a postive conotation to hitler.

  26. Bill Hicks is God says:

    What an excellent thread, a pleasure to read!

    @ Eve: “When people will understand that there are certain things you simply don’t tell jokes about. War crimes and tragedies like the one in Japan. Do not joke about it. Period.”

    In the proverbial “polite company.”

    Did von Trier lose his filter and say something incredibly stupid? Yes he did. Does he deserve to be thrown out of the festival/blackballed for it? No. Has he explained himself? Yes he has but he will continue to be pilloried for it.

    These hysterics probably check their closets and under their beds for Nazis before they go to sleep at night.

    I’ll tell you another reason why this kind of reaction does a disservice and can have the complete and opposite reaction than the one intended: Folks are becoming increasingly fed-up with other people telling what they can and cannot say.

    Both of these worry me equally: People too stupid to get satirical remarks, however offensive they may be to them personally and; those too stupid to get satirical remarks and think the guy is actually “for real.”

    Then there’s the self-righteous sh!t disturbers who turn everything they don’t particularly like to hear into a federal case. These people don’t worry me, I have an active dislike for them. They assume the rest of us are stupid and need to be told what to think.

    To hell with them, really.

  27. Slim Charles says:

    I was a joke gone bad. He was rambling and didn’t know how to stop or wrap up the joke. It wasn’t offensive, just really awkward and cringe-inducing.

  28. Bill Hicks is God says:

    “…telling *them*…” – oops, word omission.

  29. Solveig says:

    Well, thanks for letting me have the chance to reply…

  30. Solveig says:

    I call it genocide, yes, and I’m going to call it genocide from now on.
    Israel is occupying part of the territory that belongs to Palestine, it is taking possession of part of a land that the UN has never given to them after the WWII. It’s a fact that in doing so they are killing hundreads of Palestinians, civilians. Obama himself few days ago asked Israel’s government to go back to the edges of the state territory defined in 1967 (see this link:, that means that, in a way or another, even the US president is well aware that Israel is going far beyond the territory it was given to them legitimately.
    People who aknowledge this as a fact don’t want to say by any means that the Jews as people are as crazy as the Nazis and their leaders. They just see that there’s a sort of apologetic reaction towards what Israel goverment does in that war. An apologetic reactions that many European countries have, because as goverment probably they feel that sayind something against Israel goverment actions means to be agaisnt Israel as a State and country, which is not. For the ones who don’t know what’s happening there, some facts:
    Israel army bombs civilians, destroy their houses, don’t allow them to farm the land where the Palestinian are hardly trying to live. There are many videos of Israel soldiers who shoot the farmers from across the border, check on youtube. Another fact is, they shoot the ambulances no matter if inside there are people from international organizations who get there to help those people.
    Yes Palestine is at war, but it’s an army without weapons.
    Do Palestinian kill Israeli as well? Yes, of course, but their actions aren’t as violent as the Israeli’s one. I’m not portraying Palestinian extremist leaders as saints, but let’s face the fact that the population is completely worn out, they don’t have food, medicines, material to rebuilt their houses, they are poisoned by the non-convenional weapons residuals.
    Honestly how would you call it? I call it genocide. And there are many evidencies of Israeli who do not agree with their goverment’s action against those civilians, would you call them Nazis as well?

  31. Bill Hicks is God says:

    @Solveig: I liked your reply, it was bang-on and refreshing to read.

    Here in Canada if one speaks out against Israeli foreign and domestic policy they are labelled “Anti-Semite!”

    There’s a real repression of freedom of speech when it comes to criticism of the foreign and domestic policy of Israel, which is spun to be a “veiled” condemnation of an entire individual community: That to criticize the action of the Israel government is to be anti-Jewish. And it’s ridiculous.

  32. Trillion says:

    Hell, there are Israeli citizens opposed to their government’s treatment of Palestinians. There are Jews who are not Zionists. It’s good to remember such things before the knee jerking begins.

  33. Kim says:

    Was his “if a real criminal made a real art film” aimed at Roman Polanski? I think so and agree.

    Ban a guy for comments (albiet they were bad) BUT let a convicted pedophile on the lamb attend & win all the awards you want!

  34. Kim says:

    Hairball- i agree. Its called Freedom of Speech. Regardless of what is said and if good or bad people need to be able to express themselves verbally.

  35. Solveig says:

    @Bill Hicks is God, thank you, I always find it hard to talk about this issue, it causes many misunderstandings.

    May 27th, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Hell, there are Israeli citizens opposed to their government’s treatment of Palestinians. There are Jews who are not Zionists. It’s good to remember such things before the knee jerking begins.


    I appreciate the fact that you have the ability to synthesize, which I clearly lack of. :)

  36. jc126 says:

    I can’t follow this guy or his comments, but it seems that sarcastic or ironic comments made to the press can easily be misinterpreted. Or one tiny aspect of a remark gets blown up. In a way I don’t blame celebs who don’t like to talk to the press.
    It’s not illegal to mention Hitler in Germany, it’s illegal to deny the Holocaust.

  37. Eve says:

    @ Bil Hicks is God:

    They (at Cannes) overreacted, obviously. By banning him from the festival “for life”, they’re probably asking to be proved wrong and lose their faces in the future, when he’ll be there once again.

    I do believe he should have been thrown out of this year’s festival though, a little bit to punish him for being stupid — it should be a publicly embarrassement being expelled from a place and I’m sure he was. But mostly to spare the movie’s ators from the embarrasssment caused by him. It would have been rather simple: reprehend him shortly, state that the people at the festival do not condone his behaviour, whether it was a joke or not — and ban him from that particular edition.

    P.S.: I agree with Solveig, Trillion and Bill Hicks is God on being against Israeli foreign policy doesn’t mean a person is anti-Semitic. It’s just common sense. It’s awful what’s been happening to Palestinians.

  38. Eve says:

    Eesh…I meant “public embarrassment”.

  39. Eve says:

    P.P.S.: @ Bill Hicks is God:

    I got that he was being satirical. I got that he was trying to be sarcastic when he talked about his German ancestry. It was a deadpan joke delivery fail.

    And that’s exactly the reason why I think people should not joke about war crimes and tragedies in the first place: the outrage ensued. It’s always a stupid, not funny joke but some people may take it seriously and blow it out of proportion.

  40. Liana says:

    it’s not like every director of this world outside the US aspires to be involved in HW’s processes and crazy stardom and useless stuff.

    * * * *

    There are AMERICAN directors who want no part of Hollywood.

  41. ms. scribbler says:

    @Bill Hicks is God:

    Bill Hicks would have appreciated your comments. If he were alive and well and speaking out today, well, the panties-in-a-knot hysterics would just collectively have a stroke.

  42. akhet says:

    To all of you who are so quick to condemn Israel and side with Palestinians, please remember that the 1948 partition of Palestine was to give 2/3 of the total land to the Palestinians and 1/3 to Jews. All the Arab-majority areas were to be given to the Palestinian state. The Palestinians rejected this plan, and the surrounding Arab neighbors invaded. The Palestinians are in the situation they are in because they refuse to accept a Jewish presence in the region. They will never get a state until they do. They could have had one in 48 in 2000, many times. Jews will NEVER leave this region – and since genocide is frowned upon in the modern world, I don’t see how Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim neighbors can expect to ever go back to the way things were. (Having no state and being part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years – but that was ok because they were ruled by Muslims – lol)

    Jews are there in the region to stay – so are Arabs. Israel exists – it is not going anywhere. I, like the majority of zionists support a two-state solution. Both groups deserve self-determination and human dignity. But Palestinians must reject terrorism and fundamentalism, and above all accept that Jews are there to stay in order for this to happen.

    It is so disingenuous to say that the majority of Israelis disfavor a state for the Palestinians. They could have had one in 48, in 2000. They still can.

    I might also point out that I am neither Jewish nor religious at all. I am agnostic, and happen also to be gay. It is so silly that many people have the idea that any who is a Zionist must be either Jewish, or some fundamentalist Christian who needs Jews to be in control of the region for when the rapture comes! LOL

  43. Kimberly says:

    it was totally obvious that he had attempted a bad joke, in bad taste, in front of a room full of people.

    If you don’t get that everyone has a total f’ed up “holy f#&% what is coming out of my mouth and why can’t I stop?” moment then you suck.