Lars von Trier is undoubtedly one of the best filmmakers working today. He’s also one of the most controversial, both with his films – Antichrist, the last film he showed at Cannes, caused a lot of people to walk out of the theater – and with what he says to the public. His latest film, Melancholia, is actually getting a less divided response than Antichrist did at Cannes two years ago, and is generally being well-received at the legendary film festival.
However, in a major WTF moment at a Cannes press conference, the Danish filmmaker really put his foot in his mouth. In a response to a question about his German roots and his interest in the Nazi aesthetic, he replied:
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, then later on came [Danish and Jewish director] Susanne Bier (After the Wedding), and suddenly I wasn’t so happy about being a Jew. That was a joke. Sorry. 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 a 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, I, what can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things but I can see him sitting in his bunker.
At this point, Kirsten Dunst, one of Melancholia‘s stars, exclaimed “Oh God!” and tried to hide behind von Trier. The director continued:
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. No, not even Susanne Bier. I am very much for them. As much as Israelis are a pain in the ass. How do I get out of this sentence? Okay, I am a Nazi. As for the art, I’m for Speer. Albert Speer [the Nazi architect] I liked. He was also one of God’s best children. He has a talent that … Okay, enough.
Sometimes, when you put your put in your mouth, it’s difficult to get it out, and it just gets worse. That’s what happened when von Trier was asked about making a blockbuster and he responded, “Yes. We Nazis like to do things on a big scale. Maybe I could do the Final Solution.”
The director later admitted to the Associated Press that he was basically kidding about the Nazi thing, explaining that “I don’t have so much to say, so I kind of have to improvise a little and just to let the feelings I have kind of come out into words…This whole Nazi thing, I don’t know where it came from, but you spend a lot of time in Germany, you sometimes want to feel a little free and just talk about this (expletive), you know?”
A full list of von Trier’s foot-in-mouth moments is available at Vulture.