The Real Reason Von Trier Should’ve Apologized

Another day, another stupid comment by a public figure.  This time the fool is Lars Von Trier, the controversial Danish filmmaker who wasted my time with Dancer In The Dark.  While at the Cannes Film Festival promoting his latest movie, Melancholia, at a press conference he said the following:

“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. 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.”

Enough, indeed.  But it wasn’t.  When a reporter asked him about the possibility of making a movie that’s even more involved than his current offering, he responded thusly:

“Yeah, that’s what we Nazis … we have a tendency to try to do things on a greater scale. Yeah, maybe you could persuade me.”

There’s actually more (something about a “final solution” for journalists) but you get the idea.  Unsurprisingly, the reliably offended made their voices heard and Von Trier offered a quick, traditional non-apology

But a question needs to be asked here.  How can anyone of reason be offended by what he actually said?  Honestly, I defy anyone to read that first quotation again and expect any semblance of coherence.  (Paula Abdul makes more sense.)  It’s a long, rambling mess with an abundance of contradictory statements.  Foolishly taken at face value, many media outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter, have run with the false premise that Von Trier has “admitted” he’s a Nazi.

Clearly, he’s done no such thing.  In fact, all you have to do is click here to realize that it’s not the first time he’s said something similiar and even then, he was far from serious.

What is more than abundantly clear is that Von Trier was making a painful, pitiful attempt at improvisational humour, something he’s done for years, which he basically confirmed to the Associated Press.  Absurdly, it’s been reported he was actually getting laughs for what he said. 

Which brings me back to that phony apology.  Instead of being insincerely contrite for supposedly offending Holocaust survivors (have any actually been quoted?), how about a real “I’m sorry” for being such a suck-ass comedian?  I mean, really.  Repeating the word “Jew” several times then sequeing into conflicting views about Hitler?  That’s the best you’ve got?  Even Kenny Banya thinks you’re a hack.

Because anything involving film awards is political unfortunately, Von Trier’s foolishness could convince those on this year’s Cannes jury to overlook Melancholia which has received some strong reviews.  If the movie is that good (look for it this fall in theatres), then its merits alone should deem it worthy.  Passing it over because the guy who made it has the stand-up instincts of Michael Richards looks awfully petty and hypocritical.  Besides, far worse human beings have been rewarded time and time again for their work despite their well-documented behavioural deficiencies.  (*cough*  Charlie Sheen *cough*)

All this silliness reminds me of that great Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s dentist converts to Judaism purely for the jokes.  When the priest asks Jerry if he’s offended as a Jew because of this, he wisely replies, “No, I’m offended as a comedian!”.

Von Trier’s lack of on-the-spot comedic talent is the only reason he needed to be sorry.  The embarrassing truth about all of this?  It won’t be the last time he attempts to be funny.  If only there was a way to permanently discourage this.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 19, 2011
12:07 a.m.

UPDATE:  And now he’s been banned from Cannes.  Ridiculous.  More here.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 19, 2011
5:47 p.m.

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Published in: on May 19, 2011 at 12:07 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I like Von Trier, and his films (well, most of them.) Even though his humour is extremely sucky, just reading his poor ‘joke’ above made me crack up. It’s something Larry David would say on Curb Your Enthusiasm (although you pretty much said that with your Seinfeld reference). Von Trier provides more interesting observations of cinema, particularly with Dogme 95 (although I think I can safely say that ‘failed’), and his movies are unusual. You never know what to expect from him. Have you seen Dogville? I just watched it over the weekend, and had to have a good long think about it before I decided whether I loved or hated it. It’s often like that with Von Trier, and it seems like that’s just his thought pattern. He himself can’t seem to decide whether he’s a Jew or a Nazi. Of course, some might take this as a bad quality for a film director, indecisiveness, but it helps to make his films more fresh, original and clever. You never know where they’re going and you can almost always guarantee you’ll be depressed and annoyed when the films are finished. A director whose that powerful is quite something. End of rant.

    • Come to think of it, his comment does use the Larry David repetition technique but that’s about all he has in common with him. I’m not sure David would say anything remotely similiar on Curb. Even in a highly improvised environment, you always know what his comedic intention is. Von Trier just sounds confused.

      No, I’ve not seen Dogville, just Dancer In The Dark which left me unimpressed.


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