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.
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.”
It was a grandiose performance by European cinema’s premiere enfant terrible as Von Trier managed to shock just about everyone in the room. And also made them laugh with the sort of chuckle that gets caught in the throat.
The Nazi comments came at the end of a sprawling routine in which Von Trier said his new movie “may be crap…there’s quite a big possibility that it might not be worth seeing” and mused that his next project with Dunst and Gainsbourg would be a 3 to 4 hour porn film “with lots of uncomfortable sex.”
Von Trier’s deadpan delivery and cheerful cherub-like smile hinted to the audience that everything was one big joke.
Certainly no one took the director seriously when, asked if he would like to do a film on a larger scale, answered: “Yes. We Nazis like to do things on a big scale. Maybe I could do The Final Solution.”