Danish Director Lars Von Trier may well add controversy to his name and have them all in capital letters, as the French do. At a press conference here yesterday soon after his competition movie, Melancholia, was screened at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival, Von Trier stunned international journalists as well as his cast and crew when he declared with his trademark air of misplaced confidence that he was a Nazi. His lead actress in the movie, Kirsten Dunst, who was sitting next to him at the conference, was visibly upset as were many, many others there in the auditorium.
"Oh my God, this is terrible," she said at one point to co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg. And after the press conference ended, the actress remarked to von Trier, "Oh, oh Lars. That was intense."
The helmer, known for his severe phobia for flying and hence never gets out of Europe, later apologised for his remarks that came at a particularly sensitive time when the world is battling terrorism, and Nazism is viewed by many as being synonymous with it. "If I have hurt
The Cannes Film Festival itself was pushed on it back foot. It issued a statement: "The Festival de Cannes was disturbed about the statements made by Lars Von Trier in his press conference. Therefore, the Festival asked him to provide an explanation for his comments.
"The director states that he let himself be egged on by a provocation. He presents his apology.
"The direction of the festival acknowledges this and is passing on Von Trier’s apology. The festival is adamant that it will never allow the event to become the forum for such pronouncements on such subjects".
One of the champions of Dogma 95 that envisages taking cinema back to its natural roots (no artificiality whatsoever), Von Trier has had this great knack of getting himself into the thick of a controversy. Last year, his movie, Antichrist with Gainsbourg was booed at the festival where it played in competition, and with some frighteningly distasteful scenes of physical mutilation, the film raised uncomfortable questions on artistic liberty.
Von Trier has been unwell with what he called a severe depression that he said forced him to stay in bed without not even wanting to get up and fetch a glass of water. He wrote and helmed “Antichrist” when he was getting out of his illness.
His latest, Melancholia that is vying for the Festival’s top Palm D’Or along with 19 other titles, reflects its director’s fears and anxieties. The movie predicts doom and the end of the world. Someone called him a “psychic circus master”.
The apocalypse tale that often plays out like a fairy tale did attract its share of boos as it did claps when its Press show ended. Despite an arresting performance by Dunst as the film’s lead protagonist, a haunting Wagnerian soundtrack and almost ethereal country house location, Melancholia appears lifeless.
Dunst’s Justine has just married Michael (Alexander Skaarsgard), and the movie follows her as she goes for her reception to her sister (Gainsbourg) and her rich husband’s country home. We soon realise that Justine is suffering from depression or melancholia through her strange behaviour that forces her to wander off ever so often from the evening’s ceremonial dinner. In an important way, Justine’s dark moods appear to be a fore-warner of a planetary collision that is all set to happen wiping away life from the earth.
Melancholia in the end seems to be echoing its maker’s own depressive tendencies. And we have seen that all along – particularly in the way his female characters are written and portrayed. Right from Breaking the Ways to Dogville to Antichrist to his current Melancholia.