The remarks were made at a press conference for the film “Melancholia,” in response to a question about von Trier’s German roots: “I really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because, you know, my family was German. Which also gave me some pleasure. ... What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. … But I sympathize with him a bit.”
“I’m not against Jews. ... I am very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the [expletive],” von Trier said before he finished the rambling remarks by saying, “Okay, I’m a Nazi.”
The comments were immediately criticized by the festival’s organizers, who said in a statement they were “disturbed” by the director’s remarks.
Von Trier apologized for his comments, which he claimed were meant as a joke, in a statement on Wednesday: “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.”
This apology was not enough for the festival’s organizers, who declared the director a “persona non grata,” meaning he is banned from Cannes. It is not clear if this is a lifelong ban.
“The board of directors profoundly regrets that this forum has been used by Lars von Trier to express comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the festival,” festival organizers said in a statement.