Dear Lars Von Trier

Dear Lars Von Trier

Dear Mr. Von Trier;

Despite your three decades of making films, I have to confess that I never heard of you before this week and have never seen any of your work, which includes "The Orchid Gardener, "Dancer In The Dark" and the upcoming "Melancholia."

It also includes "The Idiots."

I am, however, familiar with the work of Adolf Hitler, the subject of your confessed infatuation as per your diatribe at the Cannes Film Festival. I grew up watching Hitler’s work on films that he didn’t make but, sadly, couldn’t have been made without him.

Don’t worry, I get it. You’re not a real anti-Semite. You were trying to be all provocateur.

The thing is, that shtick isn’t the least bit original. There’s barely a week that goes by when I’m compiling news briefs for this paper that there isn’t a story about a second-rate celebrity, athlete, state legislator or some other moron who makes a ridiculous Holocaust analogy, says a kind word about Hitler or wears a Nazi uniform to school or work or a royal costume party.

In 2008 there were a couple of parents in New Jersey who tried to get a birthday cake decorated for the son they named Adolf Hitler and then called up the media when Shop-Rite refused to comply.

In March, Dutch footballer Lex Immers was caught on video chanting "we’re going to hunt Jews" and, like you, apologized, insisting that he only meant he wanted to beat a rival team, Ajax of Amsterdam. That team has so many Jewish fans that opposing fans have taken to chanting "Ajax train to Auschwitz" while making crude gassing sounds.

And of course you remember weirdo Christian Dior designer John Galliano and his videotaped rant about loving Hitler, telling a non-Jewish couple in Paris that "your mother, your forefathers would be f–ing gassed and f—ing dead."

So, for an artist who has won some acclaim for his work, and accomplished some genuine provocation with the sexual violence of your 2009 film "Antichrist" (or so I read) your rant at Cannes not only got you kicked out of the festival — and gave Kirsten Dunst the toughest acting job of her career as she sat beside you and tried to strike the appropriate posture (whatever that is) — but it also made you seem so last year.

Yes, it’s partly society’s fault. As much as we loathe Hitler we’ve glorified him by treating him as a singular demon rather than the result of global events that allowed a psychopath to take control of a major world power. Investing that much power in him as an individual — as if it was his oratory, his sinister haircut and mustache that made him so dangerous and not an army of racist followers and eager accomplices — has made him a fascination for people like you and Galliano and the birthday parents, for reasons only you can understand.

It’s tempting to blame Jewish organizations, too, for grinding out the press releases and playing into all of your hands, but that’s their job, and if they stop doing it this kind of thing will really get out of hand.

It’s disappointing that you didn’t know better, growing up in Denmark, a country that can be proud of its rescue of Jews, and in the household of a Jewish man you thought to be your father. I understand you have some identity issues to work out after finding out your real father was German, but that doesn’t excuse using German and Nazi interchangeably.

I won’t compare you to Mel Gibson, who’s in a class of his own. But I wonder if you aren’t a bit like him, working in a field that has benefitted from the involvement of many talented and hardworking Jews, only to trash the Jews when your guard is down. One similarity, for sure, is in the aftermath. Just as Gibson’s public behavior hurt his prospects and caused collateral damage for his creative partners, your outburst will take a toll on the talent and other stakeholders in "Melancholia" who could have benefitted from the strong reviews at Cannes had this sideshow not unfolded.

So next time you’re in front of microphones with the world listening I hope you’ll be a better narcissist and talk about your 25 films and the substantial awards and acclaim they’ve won, and leave Hitler to damnation, where he belongs.



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