Posted on Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 by Angie Han
Lars von Trier‘s official job may be directing, but it seems his true calling lies in stirring up controversy. Earlier this year, the filmmaker once again sparked outrage at the Cannes press conference for Melancholia when he stated that he “sympathize[d] with [Hitler] a little bit,” even though he was “not against Jews.” Though von Trier issued an apology soon afterward, the damage was done and the director was banned from the festival.
His latest move isn’t likely to endear him to his critics, either. Von Trier is now saying that he’s “not sorry” about the Nazi remarks after all — or for that matter, about anything he’s said or done. Read on after the jump.
I’m not sorry… I’m sorry that I didn’t make it clear that it was a joke. But I can’t be sorry for what I said—it’s against my nature… I don’t think there is a right or wrong thing to say. I think that anything can be said. That is very much me. The same with film—anything can be done in a film. If it can be thought in the human mind, then it could be said and it could be seen on a film. Of course you get troubles for it afterwards, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t make it wrong. To say I’m sorry for what I said is to say I’m sorry for what kind of a person I am, I’m sorry for my morals, and that would destroy me as a person. It’s not true. I’m not sorry. I am not sorry for what I said. I’m sorry that it didn’t come out more clearly. I’m not sorry that I made a joke, but I’m sorry that I didn’t make it clear that it was a joke. But I can’t be sorry for what I said—it’s against my nature.
Von Trier went on to say that, in fact, he wasn’t sorry for anything he’d done in his life, save one incident from his childhood when he’d killed his pet bird by forgetting to feed it. Just something to keep in mind the next time von Trier has to apologize for some other controversial statement — you know it’s going to happen.
On the one hand, there’s something refreshing about a celebrity actually standing by his words, however offensive they may be. In some ways, it’s less insulting than the obviously phony apologies that so many public figures give after a scandal. And for what it’s worth, I do believe von Trier when he says he was just joking, even if the jest was in very poor taste.
On the other… well, I was going to say “von Trier, what the hell are you doing?” but it seems he’s well aware. He’s obviously comfortable with his public image, and reigniting the flames will probably only help drum up publicity for Melancholia. (Case in point: this story.) Amusingly, there’s a point during the interview in which the director himself notes, “This is why I shouldn’t do interviews—I should just shut up and I should do my films” after watching part of a video of himself making the Nazi comments. But for better or for worse, I don’t see him taking his own advice any time soon.
Here’s the quote that started this whole thing:
For a long time I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew, then I met Susanne Bier and I wasn’t so happy. No, that was a joke, sorry… But it turned out I was not a Jew, and if I had been a Jew I’d have been a second-rate Jew, because there’s kind of a… hierarchy in the Jewish population. But no, I really wanted to be a Jew but then I found out I was really a Nazi. Because my family was German, which also gave me some pleasure. What can I say? I understand Hitler… I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker at the end… [Looking at an audibly reacting Kirsten Dunst] What? There will come a point at the end of this… I will…No, I’m just saying I think I understand the man. He’s not what you would call a “good guy” but I understand much about him. I sympathize with him a little bit. I don’t mean I’m in favor of World War II and I’m not against Jews, not even Susanne Bier. That was also a joke. In fact I’m very much in favor of them. All Jews. Well, Israel is a pain in the ass but… Now how can I get out of this sentence? [laughter] No, I just want to say about the art- I’m very much for… Speer, is it? Albert Speer I liked. He was also maybe one of god’s best children, but he had some talent. It was possible for him to use during… [giving up] Ok. I’m a Nazi.
Or, if you prefer, you can watch the statement, complete with a horrified Kirsten Dunst trying to stop the trainwreck:
Discuss: Does von Trier’s un-apology change your view of him or his words?