Danish director Lars Von Trier, whose upcoming Melancholia with Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg is receiving critical praise at this year's Cannes Film Festival and will contend for the top prize, is making headlines for something other than his distinctive filmmaking.

Von Trier, who also directed Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves, issued an apology about some controversial comments he made at a press conference in Cannes on Wednesday night after debuting Melancholia. When asked about his interest in the Nazi aesthetic at the conference, von Trier responded with a kind of rambling defense of Nazism, which he later characterized as a joke. He began by invoking his own heritage. "The only thing I can tell you is that I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew," he said. "But it turned out that I was not a Jew. If I'd been a Jew, then I would be a second-wave Jew, a kind of new-wave Jew, but anyway, I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because my family is German, And that also gave me some pleasure. So, what can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things but I can see him sitting in his bunker. I'm saying that I think I understand the man. He is not what we could call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him …. But come on! I'm not for the Second World War. And I'm not against Jews."

At one point during his explanation, Dunst, who was sitting beside von Trier at the conference, shook her head and audibly exclaimed, "Oh God." After inspiring such controversy with the statements, von Trier released a statement of apology Thursday morning. "If I hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not antisemitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi."

The organizers of Cannes, as well as the Argentinian distributor for Melancholia, have already distanced themselves from von Trier and his work. Cannes organizers banned von Trier from the rest of the film festival, branding him "persona non grata."


A week of entertainment news in your in-box.
We find the news you need to know, so you don't have to.

The Argentine company also issued a rebuke. "In view of the unacceptable statements expressed by filmmaker Lars Von Trier at today's press conference in the Cannes Film Festival and his evident Nazi declaration — which is offensive for the Jewish people and human kind in general — Distribution Company SA, owner of the distribution rights for the film Melancholia in the Southern Cone, has decided to cancel the contract that linked it to the film," the company said in a statement issued via Deadline. "We clearly condemn Mr. Lars Von Trier's statements and will not support or release his film in the country."

Leave a comment

Read more about: