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Mark Kermode | 14:06 UK time, Friday, 7 October 2011

Lars von Trier has issued a statement saying that he will never speak in public again after it was revealed that he may face prosecution for the comments he made at a press conference in Cannes this year. Is his threat real and should he really be prosecuted for what he said?

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Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
Little White Lars - Mark prepares to interview Lars von Trier
The Possession of the Antichrist - did an 80s euro-horror film influence Antichrist?

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  • Comment number 1.

    Yes, Lars is a provocateur who purposely outrages people in order to get a reaction. Well, now he's got a reaction.

    The problem that Lars faces, like many provocateurs, is that you cannot necessarily predict and control what that reaction will be. So now he's being investigated by French authorities.

    Reaction provoked - well done, Lars.

    He can hardly now whine that people take him more seriously than he takes himself.

    Mark's prediction that his resolve to no longer speak to the press is just more posturing is entirely correct. However it's just more posturing for the Good Dr. to resolve not to speak to the press - he doesn't speak to the press, he speaks to the fans and to a higher purpose.

  • Comment number 2.

    Last night I tried to watch a YouTube clip of Trier's folly, and I must say I felt rather sorry for him. Three minutes of poor old Lars wearing a sickly grin, digging a hole for himself while simultaneously trying to crawl out of it... Really rather painful to watch, perhaps because I myself have been in situations where I've tried to entertain a room fool of people with silly comments and been met with silence and disdain.

    Anyway, if he does shut it from now on he'll be doing everyone a favour.

  • Comment number 3.

    After watching Antichrist a few days ago, I think Lars should refrain from making any more movies.

    I did agree with what Simon Mayo said recently (on HIS movie show) when he said that LVT should be accountable for what he says. Not to a degree where there are investigations by the 'authorities', but accountable. If this were a person that you didn't like or on opposite sides of the political aisle, you would be making a bigger deal of it, than "Oh, Lars..." I shudder to imagine your vitriol had, say, Michael Bay, made the very same comments.

    And perhaps we should all add our own vows? If you, Dr. K, won't speak to the press ever again if Von Trier doesn't speak to the press ever again, then I will never watch any of Von Trier's movies ever again. This actually won't be a difficult thing, because so far, I'm not a fan of any of his work. I only 'sort of' liked Dancer In The Dark, but couldn't tell you what the film is about other than it was made to depress the audience. Since his films all seem to be about depression (the ones I've seen and based on the title of his latest film... that one, too) I have no desire to watch any more of them. So there's MY vow.

  • Comment number 4.

    If carol thatcher and david starkey can get away with blatantly racist coment,s it would be ridiculous for any legal actions to be taken against triers.

  • Comment number 5.

    @Crash, there's a difference, in my opinion, between being held to account and being prosecuted, and I sincerely doubt Mark allows partisanship to interfere with his belief in, you know, FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

    Mark's promise is a bit woolly though - difficult to conclusively prove that Lars WON'T break his promise, unless he dies. Unless we're going with the two year deadline, in which case Mark may have to eat his shoe without publicly talking about it. Tricky.

  • Comment number 6.

    He is by nature a contrary type and therefore will inevitably spout non pc and frankly offensive things that he does not remotely believe just because he is not one to cope with controlled careful interviews. Whilst I dislike what offensive statements he has made and am only intermittently a fan of his work, I find contrary people refreshing in our ultra controlled times. Hell, even Jeremy Clarkson cheers me with his relentless not meant but intended to wind up comments and I despise the man! I do agree with Dr K that the chances of Lars staying silent are as likely as David Lynch directing smurfs 2 in 3d. Thanks

  • Comment number 7.

    'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it' - yes, even you Lars.

  • Comment number 8.

    @Liz M Yes, I think I said that. There is a difference. Maybe you skimmed my post and missed the "Not to a degree where there are investigations by the 'authorities', but accountable." Again, if this were Michael Bay, I think the reaction wouldn't have been "Ohhhh, Michael...." And I do think politics plays a factor in MOST critics' reviews; even Mark's. Criticism is subjective.

  • Comment number 9.

    As regard to Von Trier being questioned by police the only source about this investigation seems to be Lars himself, it wouldn't surprise me if he'd made this up as well.

    On the larger issue of freedom of speech, in recent years the notion has taken hold that being offended some how accords you rights. Here in the UK people seem to think that the world stops turning every time they hear something they don't like, and the last Labour government were only too eager to pass another law in response.
    Time was if someone said something you objected to you argued back at them rather than bellyaching to the nearest copper.Dr K often hears views he doesn't like and he's not shy about responding, freedom of speech means being able to say what people don't want to hear be you Lars von Trier or David Irvine.

  • Comment number 10.

    Provocateur? Prankster? I can think of another P word, pathetic. Lars’ attempts at shocking statements are nothing more than dull attempts at controversy for the sole purpose of publicising his films. It’s all rather silly that such a fuss is being made, just ignore him.

  • Comment number 11.

    Haha Lars you naughty boy!

    Honestly though he seems like a wind up merchant so I am surprised that people actually care what he says, although I suppose there are quite a few not used to his antics. I agree that he should be able to say these things without fear of prosecution and we should be free to say that he is an idiot for doing so and round the world goes, continuing to be interesting rather than words and speech being banned etc.

    Don't worry, don't always take things at face value, even I say horrendous things I don't actually mean just to get a rise out of people. If you don't like that you can always tell me that I am wrong

  • Comment number 12.

    Poor Lars, do people really need reminding that in that same press conference he said that his next film was going to be a four hour porn film about church rivalry, in which Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsborg would have allot of "very, very unpleasant sex". Perhaps they could launch and investigation into that too.

    He made a few stupid and poorly worded jokes, how long before people can just let it go. He apologised many times and explained what he was trying to say, for gods sake let it go!

    I fell more sorry for Kirsten Dunst though, she is clearly very proud of Melancholia and she gives and incrediably brave, career best performence. Now it will so often be remembered for this.

  • Comment number 13.

    As far as I'm concerned, no filmmaker should have to resort to such pathetic means to get attention. I agree with all the comments about free speech, but regardless of whether or not he meant it, it is a sign of huge insecurity on the part of Lars, as if he doesn't have enough in his films to let them sell themselves. It's no different from Michael Moore roaming around Cannes spouting off nonsense about Fahrenheit 9/11 being impounded - it just made the film seem even more warped and infantile than it already was.

  • Comment number 14.

    I would say that I agree totally with your last point Dr K.

    It's just that his comments are insensitive but having decided early on that he'd push all boundaries as an artist it's no surprise that it would extend to his comments in interviews.

    I don't know that I'd prefer to just see his films and not hear him. But I do believe that he may have thought that throwing such a sensitive comment into an industry where the mainstream is highly populated by Jewish filmmakers and stars (Hollywood) that it could be the ultimate prank to pull on the establishment?

    I mean if Hollywood is as many refer to it as being an industry run by mostly Jewish immigrants then calling himself "a bit of a Nazi" puts him in opposition to it?

    Wasn't Dogville enough of an oppositional move against the expensive, glitz and glamourous artifice that is hollywood?

    Hmm, I'm sure he'll just keep trying to push people.

  • Comment number 15.

    Despite his stupid comments in Cannes, I must confess to liking Lars Van Trier though he often leaves me livid.

    I remember being at the Edinburgh Film Festival way back in 1996 and everyone was saying you have to go see his film "Breaking The Waves". I never heard of him at that point so yes, I went to see it. Initially I found the film annoying, thought it was too long and was so infuriated with the outlandish magic realism of the ending that I wanted to rip up the cinema seats. However years later I still remember that film quite vividly and I saw several other films at the festival which were quickly forgotten as were many others I saw elsewhere so he really created something very powerful with that film that lingered with the viewer long after seeing it. Similarly with "Dancer In The Dark". "Antichrist" however was as much fun as getting root canal work but for the sheer audacity of "The Idiots", I will always like Lars.

    PS "The Idiots" was banned in Ireland where I live, I had to get a copy in HMV Oxford Street during a trip to London back in the day. Think it is still banned here. Another reason to like him.

  • Comment number 16.

    I did think about commenting on Von Trier's actions until I read an online discussion yesterday. It was American or British, I'm not sure which but it did strike me that this is far more of a mainland Europe issue. I'm not saying that we have no right to discuss it, absolutely not but I think I would rather hear the opinions of French and German people (or French and German filmmakers, for that matter) because the issue of WWII/Nazism/the Holocaust seems to have far more serious connotations than it does over here. Reading the online discussion, whether pro or anti-Von Trier, it all just seemed very self-righteous and ineffectual, whereas I can't help but feel that it is closer to home for our friends across the ditch, more personal and I would rather hear their spiel.

  • Comment number 17.

    It is perhaps worth noting that von Trier is actually mentally ill.

    From reading the recently published biography of him by Politiken journalist Nils Thorsen (which I think is still only available in Danish), it comes across that he isn't deliberately trying to be a provocateur. He just lacks that mental filter that says "it's probably not a good idea to say this". It's almost tourrettes-like.

    Anyway, the people that I was most annoyed about in this whole affair were the Cannes organizers. They invited von Trier to their festival. Then he made the sort of "outrageous" remarks that he's well known for, then kicked him out of the festival for it. It's like inviting Michael Bay to your festival then being shocked and surprised that his film is terrible, over-the-top action nonsense.

  • Comment number 18.

    Also, doesn't it mean that if von Trier gets hit by a bus tomorrow, Kermode's career is over?

  • Comment number 19.

    "Why so serious...?" Lars, what a joker.

  • Comment number 20.

    Lars is a silly arse of a man, he changes with his own tide, but Lars can create great cinema from time to time (not Dogville or Breaking the Waves of course, they were just sh...terrible). Like you say Dr K, he's a provocateur, an attention seeker.
    If he was at a party he'd be all serious with everyone, making intelligent comments for the most part. Then, he'll disappear later on and reappear, turning the lights off beforehand and run about with his wang painted in a fluorescent colour (like that Colin Hunt Fast Show sketch). He'd do it so people will talk about him the next day.

    Pay zero attention to what he says, just let what he makes speak for itself.

  • Comment number 21.

    Actually, he wouldn't. It's one of his phobias that he can't stand large, loud social events like parties.

  • Comment number 22.

    I have a question for the Good Dr. :

    You repeatedly speak out against von Trier's films from the 1990s, such as Breaking the Waves and Idiots. These films were respectively made just before and during his Dogme period, in which he choose for a deliberate anti-aesthetic style. In contrast, you praise his recent films Antichrist and Melancholia, which are slick-looking, shot on HD and digitally enhanced.

    I've had debates with people in online film forums calling von Trier a "sick, vile man" and "misogynist". But after deconstructing their argumentation, the motivation for their ad hominem attacks seemed to stem largely from their dislike of the hand-held camera and grainy image without much colour that typifies his 90s films.

    So my question is this:
    With the content of Antichrist every bit as disturbing as Breaking the Waves, could it be that your judgement of von Trier's films has less to do with their content and more with their aesthetic look? Surely a professional critic should be able to look beyond the slick surface and see Lars' respective films in the context of his (anti-)aesthetic choices at the time they were made?

  • Comment number 23.

    In advance I'm very sorry for the off topic post but I feel it's that important.

    Silent Running which I think everyone here (Mainly the good Doctor) love's is 3.99 on Blu-Ray pre-order @ Amazon and yes I have ordered it bargain of the year for me.

  • Comment number 24.

    Oh dear! Who on earth cares what this pretentious film maker says or indeed Kermode’s ludicrously serious video response to it? I suppose this is the sort of stuff that occupies the minds of the silly pseuds who watch and appear on BBC 2’s preposterous Culture Show.

  • Comment number 25.

    His comments are best left in his work. Went to see "Melancholia" last night - brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

  • Comment number 26.

    Two years and counting! Let's see who cracks first!

  • Comment number 27.

    The question shouldn't be whether he speaks to the press again, the question should be whether anyone actually cares.

    Some of his films are great (Dogville, Dancer in the Dark) and some terrible (The Idiots), but in my eyes, he's like an arthouse version of the intensely irritating Uwe Boll. All of these so-called shocking public statements are just to remind us that he exists and keep him in the public consciousness as, without them, he wouldn't get half the attention he does now.

    It would be much more convincing if the statement hadn't come out at the same time as Melancholia is in the cinemas. I imagine he will start speaking to the press again around the time of the DVD release!

  • Comment number 28.

    I agree, you should be able to say what you like. Where would satire be without freedom of speech? Consider what happened to Chris Morris with Brass Eye. Actually try and find out what happened (has the web been cleansed?)...

  • Comment number 29.

    Of course he shouldn't be prosecuted. von Trier is a provocateur, the French know this yet they act surprised when he says something offensive. I hope he sticks to his promise, he's clearly on a roll and it'd be a damn shame if he couldn't keep making films

  • Comment number 30.

    My apologies for going off subject but I am hoping to bring this to the attention of you guys (and the good Dr K hopefully). With the recent posts about Drive, this story came past me and infuriated me so much I had to let Mark know as Im sure can appreciate my quibble. A woman is to sue the distributers of Drive over the 'misleading' trailer.

    It sounds like th etrailer did its job. It got you in the cinema and it took your money. Deal with it!

  • Comment number 31.

    If the authorities are going to investigate everyone who's a bit of a prat for every ill advised comment or throw away line, they'll have their hands pretty full. I think the general public are grown up enough to make their own judgements about such things and really don't need a Big Brother to stick up for them.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hold on a second Kermode, how does your promise work? We have to wait until Lars dies and then, if he hasn't sopken to the press, you will stop speaking to the press?

    I promise not to speak to the press ever again if you do that.

  • Comment number 34.

    Oh Lars

  • Comment number 35.

    I've just watched the "gaffe" from Cannes, but maybe it's me but I found it really quite funny. The fact that the French authorities are investigating him isn't surprising and is not due to having them having a humour bypass: the whole Hitler related legislation is used to enforce the present social democratic political order so anyone even jesting against it must be expunged. Hitler is a bogeyman to use guilt by association from anyone from the "right" who is against the present system; btw left and right are frankly meaningless words except in the historical context of the French revolution.

    Also what's the crime in liking Nazi art? Liking the Kremlin doesn't mean you admire or support Ivan the Terrible. I've never had the inclination to see a von Trier film but after seeing that interview I am more interested in doing so. Lars the one man PR man.

  • Comment number 36.

    It's true
    And their trying to get this film banned it's called Black Biscuit.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    Dr K, just to rekindle your memory so that in future you have a great reference point to prove the untrustworthy nature of (the rather wonderful Mr Von Trier) just look at the closing credit sequences of Riget. The man essentially comes out and says 'hey, I'm a prankster'.

  • Comment number 39.

    I suppose it depends on where he says things, and to whom. There was that fashion designer recently in court for his albeit drunken anti-Semitic rant. Lars better be careful he doesn't end up the same way. But then, give them enough rope and they'll soon hang themselves.

    I have to say MELANCHOLIA definitely looks like my kind of film, and I'll be eagerly awaiting the DVD. :)

  • Comment number 40.

    i disagree about the investigation, mr k.
    if you are invited somewhere, in this case, a famous film maker to a famous film festival, you should have the courtesy to not offend the host. if he thinks he has to make jokes about being a nazi in a country that may have another tradition, he could have gotten half an hour of councelling before hand.

    ("lars baby, i know, we need to get some press some, but I think the French like jokes about Americans more than about the world war 2.")

    yes, i am for free speech. but i am tired of von trier being inconsiderate. we champion and defend our artists, maybe today more than ever. for me this in not a problem of free speech, this is just a neurotic director who should really consider getting a speech trainer.

    i also would want to say that your arguments for free speech in this instance were weak. yes, joy division had a lp with a little hitler youth and some other artists talked trash, too. where is the connection to von trier and free speech? how do you convince somebody who thinks there should be a control on speech? why do we need free speech again?

  • Comment number 41.

    We should allow idiots to just be idiots?? Should we allow racists, anti-semites and homophobes to proclaim their vile garbage?? Free speech doesn't account for hate-speech.

  • Comment number 42.

    Is it possible that von Trier just has a slightly more, er, European outlook? I thoroughly enjoyed Melancholia and it clearly has things to say about the Sublime. The Wagnerian soundtrack feels integral. It's all but impossible to discuss some ideas without raising the sceptre of Nazis and Nazism.

  • Comment number 43.

    I'd never seen a Lars Von Trier film until 'Melancholia' and I'd always stayed away because of the bad press the director had got for being what I can only describe as a bit of a tit.
    But with nothing else to see but 'Melancholia' or 'Tintin' I sat down for a bit of world ending misery.
    I can't say I completely enjoyed it and part 2 was much better than part 1 but what an effecting film and ending, left me somewhat stunned at the end of it. Now want to go and see all his other stuff (maybe not 'The Idiots').
    As for what he says in his press conferences I think maybe he should be allowed to say whatever he wants but as is usually best with actors and directors we shouldn't bother listening to them, especially on their thoughts about things outside their films.


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