the only kindness is make-believe


In a recent issue of Time Out London, an almost full-length photograph of Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier accompanies an interview promising to explain his “Nazi claims.” Four months earlier at a Cannes Film Festival press conference, von Trier had jokingly described himself as a Nazi and said he understood Hitler. The firestorm of condemnation that followed was far more newsworthy than the premiere of his film, Melancholia. In an unprecedented reaction, the Cannes organizers expelled von Trier from the festival. When Melancholia opened in London the media were still flogging the controversial press conference, not the film. Von Trier’s remarks were widely interpreted as anti-Semitic. The Time Out interview retold the filmmaker’s explanation: that they were about his Jewish and German identity, and that they were misunderstood. Although after Cannes he was contrite about the comments, Time Out reported that he recently went to Berlin for a retrospective where he repeated his remarks and got a rock star reception from his German audience. So is he or is he not an anti-Semite? I suspect that not even von Trier knows the full answer. Time Out’s interviewer describes him as “sniggering” about the whole situation. But von Trier’s carefully posed photograph is perhaps more instructive.

more from Alan A. Stone at Boston Review here.