Danish director Lars von Trier said Wednesday he sympathised “a little bit” with Adolf Hitler when asked about his German roots at the Cannes film festival, shocking his star Kirsten Dunst.
Von Trier, a frequent provocateur, told reporters after the well-received screening of his apocalyptic new picture Melancholia that he understood the Nazi leader.
“I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi. You know because my family was German, Hartmann, which also gave me some pleasure,” he said with a cheerful smile when asked about his German heritage.
“I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end.”
When Dunst, who is also of German descent, started looking uncomfortable and murmured “oh my God, this is terrible,” to co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg, the director assured her: “But there will come a point at the end of this”.
“I’m just saying that I think I understand the man. He’s not what you would call a good guy, but, yeah, I understand much about him, and I sympathise with him a little bit, yes. But, come on, I’m not for the Second World War. And I’m not against Jews.”
As stunned reporters looked on, he then pressed on with his views on Israel and Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer.
“I am of course very much for Jews, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass. Still — how can I get out of this sentence — I just want to say, about the art, I’m very much for Speer,” he said, adding that the convicted Nazi war criminal had “talent”.
“Okay, I’m a Nazi,” he shrugged, prompting nervous laughter from reporters.
He then deadpanned that his next movie could be The Final Solution, the Nazis’ code word for the Holocaust.
Trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter leapt on the story, saying von Trier had pulled a “Mel Gibson in Cannes”, referring to the actor’s notorious anti-Semitic and sexist rants in recent years.
“Von Trier has never been very PC (politically correct) and his Cannes press conferences always play like a dark stand-up routine, but at the Melancholia press conference he took it to another level, tossing a grenade into any sense of public decorum,” it wrote.
“If this were America, not Cannes, [it] would have meant career suicide.”
Gibson skipped the Cannes press conference for his new film The Beaver on Tuesday, citing a previous commitment in Los Angeles, but later walked the red carpet with his director Jodie Foster. –AFP