Can Cannes ban Lars von Trier from the festival? Yes, yes they Cannes.
Lars von Trier hasn't ever been a subtle filmmaker. Everywhere he goes he makes waves, but usually it's with his films, not his personal behavior. His latest film, MELANCHOLIA, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday to fawning reviews. Our own Chase Whale called it "a powerful piece of beautiful and haunting cinema."
However, at a Q&A panel following the film, von Trier made some comments that made the audience, his fellow panelists, and the Cannes executives feel a little uneasy. Uneasy enough to get him kicked out of the festival.
Von Trier was quoted as saying: "I understand Hitler…I sympathize with him a bit...Now how can I get out of this sentence? Ok. I’m a Nazi.” He went on to clarify," I don’t mean I’m in favor of World War II and I’m not against Jews, not even Susanne Bier” before digging himself deeper, “In fact I’m very much in favor of them. All Jews. Well, Israel is a pain in the ass but…”
I've done my best to not take his comments out of context. For further insurance, check out the video below.
In response, the Cannes Festival directors have issued a PNG for Lars von Trier. A PNG stands for persona non grata which basically translates to, "You're not welcome here." The Festival execs responded to von Trier's comments by saying,
"Cannes provides artists with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation. We profoundly regret 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."
Now, I'm hoping that if you've watched the video you'll clearly see the von Trier, was making a joke which fell completely in line with his characteristic dead pan style. It might have been out of line, but I think his demeanor revealed his words were clearly laced with humor. Further, English is not his first-language so allowing him some degree of leniency with the interpretation of his words is necessary.
It seems a bit ludicrous to ban him from the festival, and I sincerely hope it won't be taken into consideration when awards are handed out. But then again, I don't run the festival. They've got every right to ban the guy; I just think it's a bit of an overreaction.
Our own Josh Brunsting questioned their consistency, wondering if they'd have banned Walt Disney or Polanski for their personal ideologies or remarks. He's got a point. What do you all think?