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cannes 2011

The 10 Most Controversial Things Lars Von Trier Said at the Melancholia Press Conference

Lars Von Trier is known for putting on a show in the course of defending — or jovially undercutting — his own films, and he did not disappoint this morning at the press conference for Melancholia, his depiction of the most depressing, most disastrous wedding ever and the end of the world, starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Stellan and Alexander Skarsgård. For someone who makes such sad movies, von Trier is a delightful wit in press conferences — a gift to journalists, if you will. Herewith, the ten most controversial things he said, including the part where he talked about making a porno with Dunst and Gainsbourg, and rambled on about being a Nazi and his sympathies for Hitler, which was met with laughs. Not exactly the reception he'd get in America, but we're pretty sure he was joking.

1. In response to a question about his German roots and his interest in the Nazi aesthetic: "The only thing I can tell you is that I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew, then later on came [Danish and Jewish director] Susanne Bier, and suddenly I wasn't so happy about being a Jew. That was a joke. Sorry. But it turned out that I was not a Jew. If I'd been a Jew, then I would be a second-wave Jew, a kind of a new-wave Jew, but anyway, I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because my family is German. And that also gave me some pleasure. So, I, what can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things but I can see him sitting in his bunker. [Kirsten Dunst goes, "Oh God!" and hides uncomfortably behind Lars.] I'm saying that I think I understand the man. He is not what we could call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him ... But come on! I'm not for the Second World War. And I'm not against Jews. No, not even Susanne Bier. I am very much for them. As much as Israelis are a pain in the ass. How do I get out of this sentence? Okay, I am a Nazi. As for the art, I'm for Speer. Albert Speer I liked. He was also one of God's best children. He has a talent that ... Okay, enough"

2. Following up, when asked if he’d like to do a blockbuster: “Yes. We Nazis like to do things on a big scale. Maybe I could do the Final Solution.”

3. On why he doesn't do comedies, despite being funny in person: "Because I make comedies that become very melancholy films. This was, in fact, a comedy. You don’t want to see a tragedy."

4. On why he likes Kirsten Dunst for her role as a depressed bride: "I would say that Kirsten has some knowledge of depression. Can I say that? If not, forget it."

5. On what he has coming up next: "I would like to talk about my next film, which is, Kirsten insisted, going to be a porn film. And we made this famous beaver shot [Admittedly, he could have said "River." We couldn't tell because of the accent] in the film where Kirsten was naked, and I said, 'It doesn’t really fit the film,' and she said, 'I feel strongly for this.' And I said, 'Yeah, it’s pretty good.' And now she wants more. And Charlotte is behind this. They want a really, really hard-core film. And I’m doing my best. I said, 'But then let’s make a lot of talking in between. There should be a lot of dialogue.' And they said, 'We don’t give a shit about dialogue. We just want to have a lot of very, very unpleasant sex.' And that’s what I’m working on. And it’s going to be about three or four hours long, and the only reason for that is that this press conference will be a little later."

6. Later, apropos of nothing, more on his future project: "I’m now looking into the conflict between the Eastern and Western church. That is, between the Catholic and Orthodox church. And that is of course because of the porn film I am doing ... The East church, I understand, is more of a pleasure church, whereas the Western church is kind of concentrating on the crucifixion and stuff. But where I’m getting is that the divine light is something that is very important in the Eastern church, the way of being transformed by the light ... The fact that planet Earth is being destroyed is not so alarming because we’re all going to die at some point. But the Holy Spirit side is something I’m going to explore in the porn film. This is because of the whole discussion about the Eastern church and orgasms which are very important. Charlotte is not fake and those are two different kinds of ways of acting. It is French versus American. Should I talk about Spider-Man now?

7. On his cinematographer: "He was very eager to do what I wanted and that is always very nice … The more important thing he said to me, during a take, suddenly out of nowhere, he said to me, 'Don’t do this thing that mainly middle-aged or older directors do, that the women get younger and younger and more and more naked.' And I said, 'Don’t say that to me.' So now, I tell you that they’re going to be naked and extremely young. So in that way he helped me a lot."

8. On how he found a way to put Udo Kier, who plays the event planner, in ten or eleven of his movies: "I typecast him as a homosexual. And that helped very much. Your performance is fantastic, Udo. I don’t know where you get it from."

9. On whether he is actually as melancholic as his movies: "I stopped drinking and I’m getting to read books and being boring like everybody. But I feel good. Though philosophically I’m against not drinking. I think you should intoxicate yourself. And I’m looking at you, Stellan. I would have been looking at Kiefer if he was here, so next in line is you. And Udo, maybe a little bit. So next time you will be typecast not only as homosexual, but also extremely drunk. We won’t have to change anything. You can just go on with your life."

10. On whether he likes Melancholia: "It was a very big pleasure to do the film. There was a lot of stuff that we put in that we got carried away a bit, so everything became over-romantic. It was nice to do, very nice to do, but then when I saw it in bits, I kind of rejected it a little bit. So I’m not really sure what I … Maybe it’s crap. I hope not. But there is quite a big possibility that it might be really not worth seeing."

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images