Lars Von Trier had sound reason to be in a good mood when he sat down for the press conference of his new film, “Melancholia,” on Wednesday in Cannes. The ‘enfant terrible’ of Cannes had begun to generate strong Palme d’Or buzz immediately following the first screening of his latest. Much of that got derailed after Von Trier said he empathized with Adolf Hitler and identified himself as a Nazi to the press.
Within 24 hours, Cannes declared the Danish filmmaker a persona non grata, igniting a flurry of reactions across the web. Mubi was one of the first on the scene to collect quotes from writers, including Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir. O’Hehir asked to keep Von Trier’s controversial comments in context by reminding readers that he also claimed to make a four-hour long hardcore porn film with Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst in the same press conference. For O’Hehir, the Hitler comments have been magnified by “the massive game of Telephone that entertainment journalism has become, into some kind of semi-serious confession of Third Reich sympathies.”
Oliver Lyttelton from The Playlist questioned the festival’s decision outright, “If Von Trier had stood up and outlined racial supremacist views, that would have been one thing, but he was nowhere near that, and even clarified his views at the time, and to ban Von Trier from the festival only a few days after parading Mel Gibson, a man on record as making genuinely racist and anti-Semitic statements, down the red carpet for the out-of-competition premiere of “The Beaver,” a move designed to generate publicity just as much as Von Trier’s comments were, is an act of staggering hypocrisy.”
The commotion has also affected the film financially. “Melancholia”‘s Argentinian distributor reportedly dropped the film after the scandal.
The New York Times’ Melena Ryzik recapped the controversy surrounding the event and subsequent ban, while Catherine Shoard from The Guardian looked at the media landscape to see what reactions the decision from Cannes has sparked. Public reaction has been mixed. Check out the message board at The Onion’s A.V. Club, which is loaded with comments.
Von Trier didn’t help his cause much when speaking with Time Out Chicago about the situation. “I believe that it’s an especially delicate subject down here, because the French have a history of being extremely cruel to the Jews,” explained the director in an attempt to do damage control. If anything, the director seemed to express a sort of outcast pride from the festival’s decision.
His interview with The Los Angeles Times, however, shows a less defiant side of Von Trier. In the interview, the director admitted he may be done with press conferences altogether.
When Terrence Malick was a no show at his press conference for “The Tree of Life,” the international press wasn’t so pleased. Our advice to Von Trier? Next time, take a cue from Malick and let the work speak for itself.