Fellow auteur Terrence Malick has overshadowed Lars Von Trier thus far at this year's Cannes film festival, but that's unlikely to continue now that Von Trier has said he understands Hitler.
Von Trier made the comments at a press conference in response to a question about the use of Wagner in his new film Melancholia. Per the AP, the director "launched into a rambling train of thoughts" about making a porno film with Melancholia performers Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg (who were seated next to him at the time) and how he "really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because, you know, my family was German." (You can watch the video here.)
He continued: "What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end, He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against Jews. ..."
For some reason, he also showed up to the press conference with the letters F-U-C-K written across his knuckles, which he proudly showed off during the Melancholia photocall.
Afterward, he said his performance was all a joke, but nobody's laughing. The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants called the director a "moral failure" in a statement. The Hollywood Reporter deemed the press conference "shocking and hilarious" and said he "pulled a Mel Gibson." Dunst wasn't as amused. Afterwards, per Reuters, she was overheard saying, "Oh Lars, that was intense."
Update: Anti-Defamation League national chairman Abraham Foxman weighed-in on the controversy in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "He seems to be struggling with some personal ghosts," said Foxman. "This is one way I guess he resolved them, in a very, very bizarre way...I don't know what to make of it except that what we're seeing recently is, when somebody has a personal problem or is under intense pressure, it bursts out in an anti-Semitic fashion…. It certainly is insensitive to Jewish people and to Jewish history."
Update 2: Von Trier has issued a statement apologizing for the remarks. ''If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not anti-semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi," he said.
Cannes organizers also issued a statement apologizing on Von Trier's behalf.
"The director states that he let himself be egged on by a provocation." The statement continued: "He presents his apology. The direction of the Festival acknowledges this and is passing on Lars von Trier’s apology. The Festival is adamant that it would never allow the event to become the forum for such pronouncements on such subjects