SPIEGEL ONLINE: You have been declared persona non grata at the Cannes Film Festival after you made controversial comments about Adolf Hitler and joked that you were a Nazi. What is your reaction?
Von Trier: I am very proud of being persona non grata. I have never been one before in my life. And it suits me extremely well.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How so?
Von Trier: I feel so claustrophobic in the festival palais that I will be very happy not to go there. I now have an excuse for not going to Cannes... That's maybe the good part. I would love to go home, but I think I should promote my film "Melancholia" as much as I can. My thing was -- if it will help you, throw the film out. Please throw the film out. It's fine with me.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: It sounds like the festival at which you have celebrated your greatest successes doesn't matter to you at all.
Von Trier: It's kind of shocking to me, these things. I respect the Cannes film festival very much. They have helped me a lot. I am a very good friend of Gilles Jacob, and he was very angry at me.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Can you explain from your point of view how your confusing statements at the press conference came about?
Von Trier: I made a connection from German romanticism to the values that were taken over by the Third Reich. People wanted me to say that Albert Speer was not a great artist. And that I cannot say, because I feel he was a great artist. He was an asshole and killed people. But for the truth we have to draw a line, as between sports and politics. He has been a fantastic influence on the afterworld.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The critique this week has primarily been focused on your comments such as "okay, I am a Nazi."
Von Trier: First of all, I have a very famous Danish Jewish name. All my children have Jewish names. I have spent half of my life investigating my Jewish past, which turned out not to be my past because my father was not my father. I found out that I was not Jewish but a German. In the slang we use in Denmark -- which is not funny, but stupid -- a German is called a Nazi. So I was not a Jew but a Nazi, not meaning I was a Nazi, but meaning I was a German.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the accusations that you are anti-Semitic are inaccurate?
Von Trier: I don't like Israel's Palestinian policies. But I am not Mel Gibson. I am definitely not Mel Gibson. I am the opposite. I have been to all these concentration camps and I think that the Holocaust is the worst crime in humanity. And I was naïve. Coming from Denmark, I thought this was some time ago and we should open up a little. This was wrong. It was stupid of me and I apologize for the pain I have inflicted on some people. If anyone would like to hit me, they are perfectly welcome. I must warn you, though, that I might enjoy it. So maybe it's not the right kind of punishment.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The leadership of the Cannes festival would seem to agree. How can you explain the intensity of the reaction?
Von Trier: I believe it's an especially delicate subject down here because the French have a history of being especially cruel to the Jews.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Sorry, but such statements don't exactly seem calibrated to help you return to the festival's good graces.
Von Trier: I am just so tired. Maybe I am too stupid and I should be carried around in a little cage with something in front of my mouth. But on the other hand, I do have some political issues I would like to raise. I think it's completely stupid to bomb Tripoli. That is beyond what the United Nations should ever do. And that's not because I think Moammar Gadhafi is a good guy. The UN was established to have different countries get together so they didn't get involved a war. And now they are trying to spread American liberalism all over the world, which is not good. But nobody has talked about the film.
Interview conducted by Rüdiger Sturm
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