Cannes Brings Back von Trier After 2011 Ban for Hitler Comments

Posted April 19, 2018 7:54 p.m. EDT
Updated April 19, 2018 8:00 p.m. EDT

Lars von Trier, the Danish film director who was declared unwelcome by the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 for his remarks about Hitler, will make a Cannes comeback this year: His movie “The House That Jack Built” will be presented out of the official competition.

Announcing the news Thursday, the festival organizers also said that Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” — a comic fantasy 18 years in the making that has been caught up in a legal dispute — will close this year’s festival as another out-of-competition title. The festival runs from May 8-19; officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision to include von Trier.

Von Trier’s movie plots 12 years in the life of a serial killer, and stars Matt Dillon, Riley Keough and Uma Thurman.

“Cannes has decided to favor the talented artist that he is over the obvious provocateur that he also is,” Jacques Mandelbaum, a film critic for the French daily Le Monde, said in an interview, adding that artists often “express political opinions that are somewhat radical or unacceptable.”

Von Trier, who won the Palme d’Or in 2000 for “Dancer in the Dark,” has been absent from the Cannes festival for seven years, after comments he made during the news conference for his 2011 competition title “Melancholia.”

Von Trier began by referring to his discovery, as an adult, that he had a German family. “What can I say? I understand Hitler,” he said. “I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end.”

As actress Kirsten Dunst squirmed and shook her head in the seat beside him, von Trier added, “He’s not what you would call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on! I’m not for the Second World War, and I’m not against Jews.”

The festival board voted to declare von Trier "persona non grata." He was barred from that year’s prize ceremony or from entering the festival headquarters, although “Melancholia” stayed in the competition.

“I got carried away,” von Trier said in an interview with The New York Times the day after the board decision. “I feel this obligation, which is completely stupid and very unprofessional, to kind of entertain the crowd a little bit.”

He attributed the comments to the fact that he was no longer drinking. “If I had been, I would be almost asleep at the press conference and would not have said those stupid things,” he added.

The festival’s artistic director, Thierry Frémaux, had indicated earlier this week that von Trier would be back in Cannes. Speaking in an interview on French radio, he said that the festival’s president, Pierre Lescure, had worked hard to change the Danish director’s status as persona non grata “in the belief that it was time to make a place for him again as a filmmaker.”

Three directors were added to this year’s official competition Thursday, including Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, a Cannes regular, who won the Palme d’Or in 2014 for “Winter Sleep.” His new title is “The Wild Pear Tree.” That brings the total number of films vying for the Palme d’Or to 21.

Earlier this week, the festival also revealed the composition of its main nine-member jury, which is being led this year by actress Cate Blanchett. Jurors include actresses Kristen Stewart and Léa Seydoux and directors Ava DuVernay and Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Separately, the films chosen for the Directors’ Fortnight section of the festival were announced, including “Climax” by Gaspar Noé and “Le Monde est à Toi” by Romain Gavras, son of Greek-born director Costa-Gavras.