Seven years after being banned from Cannes, Lars von Trier returned to the world’s most prestigious film festival this year to once again stir up controversy. The director’s new film, “The House That Jack Built,” caused walkouts and outrage over its depiction of graphic violence. The attention surrounding von Trier at Cannes 2018 was dominated by “Jack” backlash, but French publication AlloCiné did manage to get von Trier to comment on the sexual harassment allegations made against him by Björk.
“You know, 90% of the journalists I spoke to believe that I harassed Björk, but that’s ridiculous because I denied it, but no one wrote it,” von Trier said. “Because a good story is to write that I harassed her. And this is not the case. I touched her, it’s true. I did it with all my actresses. Because she was doing a really intense job: screaming, being sick…so obviously I hugged her. But if she thinks a hug is harassment, then I think I will not be able to succeed without touching my actors. I did not touch her in the wrong places, I think.”
Björk published a Facebook post last October accusing an anonymous filmmaker of harassing her on set and punishing her when she did not give into his advances. While the actor-musician did not name von Trier in her initial post, the director responded to her and denied harassment ever taking place on the set of their film, “Dancer in the Dark.” Von Trier and producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen admitted the production of the movie was fraught with tension and blamed Björk for being difficult on set. The actress responded to von Trier’s denial with more allegations.
“After each take the director ran up to me and wrapped his arms around me for a long time in front of all crew or alone and stroked me sometimes for minutes against my wishes,” Björk said. “While filming in Sweden, he threatened to climb from his room´s balcony over to mine in the middle of the night with a clear sexual intention, while his wife was in the room next door.”
Von Trier remains firm in his denial of Björk’s accusation. The director told AlloCiné that while he supports the #MeToo anti-harassment movement, he is worried about the way information and accusations spread on the internet.
“I think the MeToo movement is a brilliant idea. If it’s used the right way, it’s something very important,” von Trier said. “The problem is that the internet is something that we had not imagined would affect our lives so much. Nobody had thought that this or that could happen. Only that some people repressed in some countries had a way to address the world. I’m just scared that if someone says that person has committed murder or whatever, she’s [not] presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Von Trier’s “The House That Jack Built” will open in U.S. theaters this fall, courtesy of IFC Films. Head over to AlloCiné to read the full interview with the director.