Controversial auteur Lars von Trier's new film, starring Kirsten Dunst, presents a gorgeous, provocative vision of depression and the end of the world
With eight words, Danish director Lars von Trier earned himself a place in film history: "How can I get out of this sentence?" The statement came last May in the middle of his debacle of a Cannes International Film Festival press conference—a debacle that threatened to overshadow his latest film, Melancholia, which sees its American release today. At Cannes, he spoke about Hitler, stating "I sympathize with him a little bit." Emphasizing that he didn't dislike Jews, he made matters worse by taking a dig at Danish-Jewish filmmaker Susanne Bier. After a string of non sequiturs and bad, insensitive punch lines, he summed up his flow of words with "I am a Nazi."
Watching footage of the press conference on YouTube, the Hitler monologue looks more like a series of jokes gone very awry than a serious display of anti-Semitism—the kind of material that perhaps only Louis C.K. or Sarah Silverman could have gotten laughs out. His line of conversation stemmed from von Trier's recent discovery that he was not of Jewish descent, as he had grown up believing, but that his biological father was actually German. It's possible that von Trier still thought of himself as culturally Jewish, since the man who raised him was Jewish, and thought that fact gave him license to be flippant about Hitler and the Nazis.