Cannes Bans Von Trier for Nazi Comments

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
May 19 2011 9:10 AM

Cannes Bans Von Trier for Nazi Comments

Up untilnow, it seemed that the big story out of Cannes was the premiere of thelong-awaited Terrence Malick movie Tree ofLife , which has had bloggers andcritics in a tizzy . But yesterday, Danish director Lars von Trier managedto wrest away the spotlight in rather spectacular fashion. At a morning pressconference for his "psychological disaster film" Melancholia ,von Trier answered a question about his German roots with a rambling responseabout how he is "really a Nazi" and "understand[s] Hitler." (He also callsIsrael "a pain in the ass.") The Telegraph has clipped the relevant portion of the conference:

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Von Trier issuedan apology later that day, but Cannes organizers decided it wasn't enoughand have today declared him a " personanon grata at the Festival de Cannes , with effect immediately." Melancholia remains in competition, butif it wins, a spokeswoman told the AP that von Trier"won't be there to receive the prize."

The video istransfixing in a way that transcripts of the event just can't capture you canliterally see the man start to dig his own grave, look up, realize what he'sdoing with a shovel in his hand, and then keep on digging, perhaps hoping that he'lleventually come  out on the other side. And then there's poor Kristen Dunst. Haven't we all been in a similar situation, and not known how to handle our competing urges to call the person out (or just for the love of God, make him stop) and maintain social niceties? Dunst does everything she possibly can to register her discomfort (if not quite disapproval); her eyes dart around the room, her hands fly to her neck, her lips purse, she leans around von Trier to whisper and titter, "Oh my god, this is terrible." It's the most compelling performance I've seen from her in years.

Lars von Trier isn't exactly thekind of person you want undergoing media training provocation is his stock intrade but the sheer misguidedness of this loopy riff baffles me, especially becauseit doesn't sound like von Trier has very strong feelings on the topic of Nazis,if his commentsto the AP are anything to go by:

I don't have so much to say, so I kindof have to improvise a little and just to let the feelings I have kind of comeout into words ... This whole Nazi thing, I don't know where it came from, butyou spend a lot of time in Germany, you sometimes want to feel a little free andjust talk about this (expletive), you know?

Psychologicaldisaster indeed.

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Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.

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