CANNES (Reuters) - Danish director Lars Von Trier said Thursday he was “shocked” at being expelled from this year’s Cannes film festival for joking during a press conference that he was a Nazi who sympathized with Hitler.
Speaking by telephone from a hotel just outside the French Riviera resort, the 55-year-old maverick said there had been a “misunderstanding,” although he had conducted himself in a “stupid and very unprofessional way.
“I’m beyond the point of being disappointed, I am just very tired of the whole thing,” the famously provocative film maker told Reuters on a day when Cannes’ unprecedented decision dominated the world’s biggest cinema showcase.
“It has come as quite a shock for me, I must say.”
At Wednesday’s bizarre press conference, Von Trier, in Cannes to talk about his movie “Melancholia,” launched into a rambling monologue about his Jewish/German heritage before making the remarks that forced his exit.
He jokingly said he was a Nazi, sympathized with Hitler “a little bit,” deemed Israel a “pain in the ass” and muttered the phrase “the final solution for journalists.”
In the interview Thursday, conducted in English, he said he had lost sight of the fact that he was talking to a huge audience through the international media.
“I think that I’m talking to my friends back at the cafe and suddenly I find out, of course, that I’m talking to the world which are not amused.”
Asked whether the world was right not to be amused, he replied: “People who are not amused have always the right not to be amused, I think that’s fair. I am sorry if I have hurt people. That was not my intention.”
Cannes’ decision to expel one of its favorite film makers has sharply divided opinion among movie goers, with some supporting the festival and others accusing it of bowing to political correctness.
Von Trier argued that how he expressed himself was perhaps as important as what he said.
Referring to his disparaging comment about Israel he said: “That of course was a ridiculous thing to say, but what I meant was that I did not agree with their foreign policy, which is nothing that could make me a persona non grata, I think.”
He added that politics should be kept separate from a cultural event like Cannes.
“I think it’s very strange, because if I had been Hitler and doing a lot of stupid things then I could still in my opinion go to a film festival. I think you should keep these things from each other. It’s a little bit like sports and politics.”
He also questioned what he saw as an American habit of apologizing for one’s mistakes.
“Apologizing is something that for me ... is actually a little distasteful, because apologizing doesn’t do anything. I find it very American to apologize ... It doesn’t change anything, it’s very easy and it’s completely with no content.
“No, I don’t apologize but I am sorry if I hurt some people and that was not my intention.”
Asked to describe how Cannes’ decision came about and how much he knew about it, Von Trier said he was approached by people who wanted him to say that he was sorry.
“Then there came a turning point where somebody wanted (me) to say that (Nazi architect) Albert Speer was not an artist and there comes my cultural radical background which says I can’t say that because for me he was an artist.
“Then I had to say ‘No, I can’t take that back.’”
Von Trier said he had been ordered not to come within 100 meters of the Palais building where the festival takes place.
“I don’t know if I will be allowed in the Palais again,” he said. “Maybe Cannes has pushed me out to be more of a rebel.”
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Mark Heinrich