I am inundated by the press asking for my views on the expulsion of director Lars Von Trier from the Cannes film festival for his remarks on Hitler and being Nazi. Probably because of being on the Jury of the festival last year. This is such a sensitive issue that any remark reported out of context could spark off controversy. So here is my point of view :
a. It must have been a painful decision for the festival. I know the people that run it well, and nothing is held in higher esteem than the creative freedom of the film maker. However the remark was made outside a film on a public forum provided by the festival, and created a media furore. As such the festival had to either own or disown such controversial remarks made by Lars. Obviously they could not own them, and were duty bound to protect the goodwill of the festival that has been generated over generations.
b. Lars is one the most significant director’s of our generation. His talent and vision has caused us all to question some of our more fundamental beliefs and has got him two trophies at Cannes it self. Whatever people say about him, his sheer force of talent will bring audiences back. I believe Lars was irresponsible in the way he took on the journalists. Even if he was provoked. Every human being is entitled to free thought and speech. I am sure somewhere Lars was trying to make a point about trying to understand what thoughts lay under the whole philosophy of Nazi’sm. But he stated it badly, and to a world where the fear of such events repeating themselves are very real. If you are a public person, on a public platform provided to you by a culture, you must be respectful and cognizant of that culture. You cannot, as Lars did, treat your own influence lightly.
c. However a world that does not explore or confront it’s history is condemned to repeat the horrors of the past. Lars should not be vilified by the media for admiring (say) Albert Speer’s sense of order in his architectural design. If Lars is fascinated by underlying Nazi philosophies and wishes to explore them, he should not be condemned merely for that.
d. My own view on the whole chapter is that Hitler unleashed a horrific side of human behaviour. It not just about being a Nazi or Jewish. Its about one human being and another. It stands as a stark reminder of our own dark sides, yours and mine, and how little it takes to be provoked to lose all sense of being human.
e. Which leads me to my final and perhaps most controversial answer to the questions to the press. The world is, and has been since the Second World War full of Hitlers and pogroms and death camps and inhuman genocide. The world stood aside and watched. Is standing aside and watching. More than that, is often supporting directly or indirectly such genocide. One man’s war is another man’s genocide when civilians are being slaughtered.
The world is right to condemn Lars Von Triers, provided it stands up and condemns all genocide that is happening in whatever name.