After one-hour police interrogation, von Trier decides to 'shut up'
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
06/10/2011 - After Danish director Lars von Trier was yesterday interrogated for an hour by Danish police concerning the statements he made after the screening of his Palme d’Or contender, Melancholia [trailer, film focus], at the Cannes International Film Festival, the controversial filmmaker has decided that it is time to stop talking in public.
"Due to this serious charge, I have realised that I do not possess the skills to express myself unequivocally, and I have therefore decided that from now on I will refrain from any public statement and concentrate on my films," he said in a press release issued through his Danish publicist Christel Hammer.
The director was questioned after accusations by the public prosecutor in Grasse, France that he had violated French legislation by his proclamations in Cannes justifying war crimes, ie ”glorifying, praising, or at least presenting the crimes in question favourably”, an offence carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.
At the press conference after the festival screening von Trier said: ”...I found out I was actually a Nazi. My family were German. And that also gave me some pleasure. What can I say? I understand Hitler...I sympathise with him a bit. Now, how can I get out of this sentence? OK, I’m a Nazi.”
The following day, he was officially declared persona non grata by the festival, which eventually presented US actress Kirsten Dunst with the Best Actress award for her performance in Melancholia. Von Trier's declarations allegedly provoked numerous reports to the French police, and von Trier was officially charged by the Grasse authorities in August.
Danish police explained that they were asked to interrogate him, not to present him with the charge, and they will inform Grasse about the result. His Danish lawyer, Tyge Trier, told local press that from his judgement, based on case law in France and at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, “von Trier’s remarks are within the limits of the freedom of speech, and the margin left to artists”.
Meanwhile, Melancholia has become both a critical and commercial success for Zentropa Entertainments; von Trier’s partner and producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen expected that neither his police problems nor his vow to "shut up" would damage the financing and marketing of his films. “We just exceeced 400,000 admissions in France, and the first reviews from Germany are superb,” he said.