Lars Von Trier tells Cannes he understands Hitler

Lars Von Trier

Lars Von Trier

Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier has told a Cannes press conference that he sympathises with Hitler and that Israel was "a pain".

Mr Von Trier, whose film Melancholia premieres there today, made the bizarre comments in response to a question about his family background.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, he said that he had believed he was a Jew and been happy about it "for a long time", but his opinion had changed after he met Academy award winning Jewish director Susanne Bier.

He said: "I wasn't so happy. But then I found out I was actually a Nazi. My family were German…and that also gave me some pleasure.

"I understand Hitler. I sympathise with him a bit."

The director, who is well-known for making controversial remarks, added that he was not "in favour of World War Two" nor was he "against Jews, not even Susanne Bier".

But he added: "In fact I'm very much in favour of them. All Jews. Well, Israel is a pain in the a**."

Mr Von Trier added that he would like to do a more high-profile film because "we Nazis like to do things on a big scale. Maybe I could do The Final Solution."

The Hollywood Reporter said that although the comments were "shocking", his "deadpan delivery and cheerful cherub-like smile hinted to the audience that everything was one big joke".

But Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, criticised the director. "His vulgar comments may have been made in jest and for shock, but those subjected to the brutalities of the Nazi regime cannot find amusement in recalling the torture and deaths of those terrible times," said Mr Steinberg.

"Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust are matters that should be treated with seriousness, not satire," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

"It is ironic that von Trier made his comments on the occasion of the Cannes Film Festival, which was created in the 1930s in response to fascist intervention in filmmaking."

Last updated: 7:41pm, May 18 2011