Lars Von Trier : Nazi ? Artist ? Free Thinker ? Should have he been banned at Cannes ?

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.


11 thoughts on “Lars Von Trier : Nazi ? Artist ? Free Thinker ? Should have he been banned at Cannes ?

  1. Von Trier doesn’t seem to mind a bit of controversy. For example his Antichrist caused quite some furore in Cannes 2009 for the gory material in it. This time he didn’t just declare being ‘a bit’ sympathetic to Hitler, but went so far as to say “I’m actually a Nazi.” However, he issued a quick apology after the incident.
    He might actually have meant all of that jokingly. He might have been egged on by journalists. Whatever might be the case, a few thousand extra people googling one’s name never hurts… 😀

  2. You can’t judge people until you know the whole evolutionary scheme of things and when you will know it you will declare all not-guilty.

    Your universe is a measure of what you are less than One. A Von Trier, a Hitler is there to fill certain gaps in your own self. Once those are filled they won’t come into your universe.

    If you pass by a market place and see toys there it shows that you are a child, a youth will see girls, an intellectual persons, books and so on. The world is like a market, you see in it what you see according to your own evolutionary status. If you have trampled upon people’s egos you will see Hitler to remind you that some day some one else can do the same to you.

    For a take on Arnold and Osama read two latest posts on my own blog mentioned above.

  3. Wonderfully diplomatic answer I must say….but here’s something you could have said and since I’ve watched your work..I know you have the balls to say it…. if you forget the atrocities of the world and shun those who are still dullard enough to believe in them…historical mistakes are bound repeat themselves. People like being diplomatic and people love to forget. But further more… lets alsp never forget that post WW2every Jewish film maker who has ever lived have done their best to portray the atrocities committed during the war. in fact, it is nothing short of an anti german movement they started and it has not yet ended, even now. and it shouldn’t. but please remember the correctness of beliefs holds no deliverance to the throats it being shoved down and let Lars be, because that’s what good artists do…. they’re un-afraid and honest. Picasso was an alcoholic womaniser so what?, Shelly sometimes claimed to have seen God, Rushdie still suffers from a Fatwa for a book that frankly wasn’t even his best work! Ayn Rand wrote a load of crap that misinterpreted Aristotle and failed to think through its own philosophy, in short it was stupid writing. but if we hadn’t read that crap when we were 13, we’d be even more jaded adults now. Everything has a purpose, even if it is to just be.
    Art should never EVER be brought into the list of things that can be banned certainly not by mere humans! because then it stops being art…it becomes just another contrived lie and there’s no point in that is there? or haven’t you people learnt?

  4. Dear Mr. Kapur,

    I have recently been in contact with two other distinguished St Stephen’s alumni, Ramachandra Guha and Gopalkrishna Gandhi, about a play I have conceived. Both men have given their esteemed approval of the project – The Durbar – please see website address attached for more information. The play brings to life a series of visions happening in the mind of Charles Freer Andrews in 1922.

    I would dearly love to tell you more about the idea, having just seen you on TV in an interview at Cannes. There was something about the way you spoke and the look in your eyes that made me want to tell you more. Then I saw you attended St. Stephen’s yourself, as did our hero Charles Freer Andrews, known to Indians as Deenabandhu; this was enough to make me try to make a connection.

    I see this comments section is full of pundits like myself, but I have faith that you actually take the time to peruse these cries for recognition! Please send an email to the address attached and I will send one back throwing all my cards on the electronic table. Thereafter I promise not to bother you!

    Kind regards, Antony

  5. Why do we still keep that sorrow of Nazi’sm with us ? Why don’t we step over it and move on ? By recollecting those horrors and keeping us away from those symbols etc. we are indirectly helping what Hitler was trying to spread a – terror, hatred…We are doing same when we hate him….just forgiving those thoughts and erasing those dark chapters from our books and teach what good others have done, we will help society to grow on positive direction…

  6. Without going deeper into the issue and rather treating it on the same facile level as Lars treated Nazism, his comments and his ban it really seems Cannes acted like an over-protective, over-sensitive, myopic and humourless old patriarch looking suspiciously at every young man who lays eyes on his young teenage grand-daughter.

    There is a line between being sensitive and over-sensitive and there are also ways of protecting one’s reputation and yet keeping a broader perspective. Strictly judging Lars by his comments and its careless / thoughtless tone it was harmless. (The fact of his being a path-breaking house of talent is completely beside the point). Cannes should have simply issued a statement strongly chiding him for his insensitivity (assuming we, as a race still want to continue seeing politically incorrectness about sensitive issues as blasphemy). Or maybe ask for him an apology which I am sure he’d have a happily issued. The ban was an extremely orthodox and dictatorial action simply under-mining the reputation of Cannes as being a forum for all things creative, forward-thinking and free.

    In the larger and well, smaller perspective, it was quite a silly thing for Cannes to do.

  7. Mr. Lars whoever he is, is entitled to his opinion and holds the right to express it.
    I may not agree with what he says, that is another matter altogether.
    And I may be all right with “Mr. Lars, whoever he is” after reading about his behavior, but that is my choice.
    Muzzling is not ok.

  8. His background explains a lot but does not excuse his behaviour /words. The important things are those you really mean and the things you do.There is not much place left for ignorance.Cannes reacted. It’s good they did.No place left for speculations.
    Action-Reaction. Nothing else.

    What do you know about Elenin?Komet C/2010 x1 Elenin(named after Leonid Elenin)

  9. Dear Shekar Jee,

    I am a huge fan of your writing, I always follow your articles but i am very lazy on commenting. Your closing words in this article inspired me to explore the cause behind two-faced cowardly behavior of our society. Especially in Hindustan (India & Pakistan) here is my lame contribution.

    I am Lost in the maze of regional rivalries.

    Exploring the current political and social situation of the world is like putting your head into a washing machine. A lot has been written and said on this subject, but none of it makes sense to me.

    Role of Media:
    In the midst of regional economical rivalries fingers are pointed in all directions, no one seems to know what is going on. Mass media is feeding us with lies, lies and more lies. Shall we just blame the media and get our head out of the washing machine? (I tried, did not work) We can’t blame media for everything. Can we? Aren’t they on the same boat as us? The only difference is that they are self-deceived by their ignorance and our ignorance is influenced by them.

    Political Capitalism:
    Politics is a very dirty game. Perhaps we should blame politicians & diplomats and get on with our lives. (I tried, failed again) Well, there has always been crooked Politicians in Pakistan. Whenever something goes wrong, our impulsive & collective ignorance leads us to blame them. And the real player and policy makers who fund and control the global political machinery stay hidden behind the scene.

    Fears and desires are two sides of same coin:
    We live in times where fear plays major role in reflecting and shaping our social values. We have been conditioned to accept fear in our lives. The fear of losing Job, The fear of losing our house, the fear of being rejected by others, the fear of not being able to provide for our family, the fear of not being able to live up to the expectation of others, All these fears is what shapes the course of our lives. We do everything possible to eliminate the fear factor from our lives and to protect our families. We lie for personal benefits. We adopt cunning strategies to compete with competitors. We make false assumptions to impress others. We don’t hesitate to pull someone’s leg for personal gains. We even use others as stepping stones to climb up the corporate ladder.

    How our actions are different than a politician? One can debate that the effect of their political crimes is bigger than ours. So does the profits… Bigger the crime, bigger will be the reward. Crooked Political rulers are definitely part of the problem but they are not the problem. They are just sophisticated high level corporate slaves who have no power. They are only puppets being used and controlled by secretive oil companies and intelligence service of regional states.

    In the end it all boils down to handful of corporations who control 90% of worlds’ resources. They dominate every aspect of our lives. They own and control the governments (Check out the history of Last 10 American Presidents, They were all corporate executive at some point). They own some of the largest media outlets in the world and rest are influenced by their interests. They decide what we should eat, how we should dress, why we should go for wars and who we should war with. In short, it’s them who shape the reality of our future.

    Ant they simply doing what should be done to gain access to regional markets to secure more profits? Aren’t we all competing for power and wealth? How many of us don’t want our nation to be the most powerful nation in the world? How many of us actually realize that we are being conditioned on mass scale? How many of us want to accept that we are crammed into this rat maze only to become corporate tool for totalitarian enslavement.

    Change the world by changing yourself:
    How often do we think of helping others or about making a real contribution to society? Maybe most of us do a lot of thinking about it, but how many of us actually have the courage to do something about it? Imagine a slave standing up to his master when slavery was considered normal in our society. How would have people reacted in that period? Slave would probably be beaten or slaughtered…. And it will be considered normal. Now, imagine this happening today. NO YOU CAN’T? Slaves don’t exist anymore… Who do you think we are? Yes that’s exactly who we are, modern day corporate slaves. Waking up and standing against this slavery state NEEDS LOTS OF COURAGE. Do we have that courage?

    Accept that we have a problem:
    In the end, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We only have two choices, we can either do something about it by denouncing the corporate enslavement or we can completely accept the current situation. In my case I have no more courage left in me. I have given up to my fears and have accepted corporate slavery. And I know I am not the only one who has surrender to this conscious slavery. I am not the only one who has traded dreams with hopes. I am not the only one who has ceased to live for a better existence in a projected future. Society has programmed us all to submit to our greatest fears disguised in immense desires.

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