Dear Mr. von Trier

Dear Mr. von Trier

Dear Mr. von Trier;

Although I consider myself a film buff, I must admit I never heard of you before yesterday and am not familiar with 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, about whom you spouted a bizarre diatribe the other day at the Cannes Film Festival, for reasons that perhaps only you understand. I grew up watching Hitler’s work on film, and although he didn’t make those films, he was the driving creative — or I should say, destructive force — behind them.

I believe you when you say you are not an anti-Semite. You seem to be somewhat conflicted about your heritage, having first thought you had a Jewish biological father only to find out he was a German and so, you are, therefore in your own words "a Nazi." That today’s Germans chafe at the idea of German and Nazi being used interchangeably after all they have done to reinvent themselves is obvious, but that should be of little consequence to someone who says"I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely, but I can see him sitting in the bunker in the end. I think I understand the man."

I understand that your were probably kidding around and the Jewish organizations that let loose with press releases were only missing the irony, which is so easy to be lost when words are put in print and deprived of inflection and gesture.

You are not the first and you surely won’t be the last person to wander into Hitlerhetoric-land and lose his way. As I compile the news briefs each week for The Jewish Week, it’s a rare week that JTA doesn’t have a story about some idiotic ranting by obscure politicians, European soccer players or fading semi-celebrities who don’t understand what they’re talking about, are looking for some notoriety or some combination of the two. But you should know better. You grew up in Denmark, a country known for its heroic rescue of Jews from the Nazis, with a Jewish parent.

Are you the latest person to enjoy success in a field that benefits greatly from the involvement of hard-working Jewish people only to turn around and trash and offend those Jews? Or are you simply, as your comments suggest, a moron?

I understand the fascination many people have with Hitler. Oliver Stone is right. People would rather focus on Hitler as an omnipotent demon than look at the global phenomena that put a maniac in power. Stalin proved more deadly, but Hitler knew his audience, using everything from the haircut and sinister mustache to the hand gestures and frenetic talking to cement his place as badass of time immemorial.

That has made Hitler the ultimate celebrity, to the point that he’s still powerful six decades after his death. And maybe that’s why people who feel marginal about themselves and their accomplishments seem to pull him out of a hat to get the attention they crave. I hope you’re not in that last category, Mr. von Trier, because your career spans four decades with 25 films that have won more awards than I could begin to list here.

No, you’re not an anti-Semite, because you said "I am of course very much for the Jews," and those words would stick in a real anti-Semite’s throat, though you had to follow that up with "

To sum up, Mr. van Trier, stick to filmmaking.

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