“unacceptable, intolerable”

“… and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the Festival [de Cannes]”, the festival’s Board of Directors declared in a press release about their decision to ban Lars von Trier from the festival earlier today.

Give me a break. Watch the “Melancholia” press conference (the relevant topic is brought up around 34:30) and tell me you honestly think Lars von Trier, despite his best efforts to declare himself one, actually is a Nazi.

In a toxic mixture of von Trier speaking in a language that is not his own and having a sense of humour that should never be deployed in a public setting (say… press conferences), he basically tries (and admittedly fails) to say three things:

  1. He admires the “Nazi aesthetic”, especially the works of Albert Speer, while distancing himself from the person Albert Speer.
  2. He is interested in (and somewhat empathetic to) “Hitler in his bunker”, while distancing himself from the person Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocoust.
  3. He has strong issues with the politics and actions of both Susanne Bier and the state of Israel, while assuring that he has nothing against the person Susanne Bier herself or Jews, in general.

You don’t have to agree with von Trier on these points, but they hardly justifiy being declared a “persona non grata” by the Cannes Board of Directors.

In fact, you don’t have to search very long to find examples of other, acclaimed directors expressing as much in their work.

Take George Lucas’ “Star Wars”, its set design and staging being heavily influenced by “Nazi aesthetics” (especially the films of Leni Riefenstahl). Or take Oliver Hirschbiegel’s “Der Untergang”, which shows Hitler’s last days (in his bunker).

The few odd remarks about Bier and Israel were unfortunate, but mostly because von Trier offered them without any setting or context. Criticism per se, if of a fellow director or of a sovereign state, should never be something that is not allowed. Especially, as it was clearly the case here, when it was said in an effort to make a joke or a slide remark (however successful that effort might have been).

The only real issue that I have with the whole thing is that Lars von Trier’s tirade had nothing to do with the movie he was there to talk about. One I am looking very forward to seeing, even after the huge disapontment that was “Antichrist”.

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