Danish director Lars von Trier said on Wednesday he would not make any more public statements or give interviews after police questioned him in connection with comments in May that led to his shock expulsion from the Cannes film festival.
“Due to these serious accusations I have realized that I do not possess the skills to express myself unequivocally and I have therefore decided from this day forth to refrain from all public statements and interviews,” von Trier said.
He said that police from the North Zealand region of Denmark questioned him about charges made by prosecutors in Grasse, France, in August, which themselves related to the Cannes controversy.
In a statement, the provocative, award-winning director of films including Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist and Melancholia, said the charges stemmed from “a possible violation of prohibition in French law against justification of war crimes.”
His expulsion from Cannes, where he had previously won the top Palme d’Or award, followed a press conference at which he jokingly said he sympathized with Hitler “a little bit.”
His remarks angered Jewish groups and Cannes organizers, although many festival goers said the punishment was unduly harsh on a director who was apparently speaking in jest and in English, not his first language.
The 55-year-old apologized, but the ban remained. He later retracted his apology.
Peter Aalbaek Jensen, co-founder with von Trier of the Zentropa film company, said he had talked to the director Wednesday, and confirmed he did not wish to speak to the media ever again.
“He has decided today to muzzle himself. He takes this extremely seriously,” Aalbaek Jensen said.
“He is a colourful and entertaining person and he has never had the intention or wish to offend anyone,” Jensen said. “He has now spent five months explaining himself. He is a self-declared socialist and humanist and speaks up for the little people. It would be absurd if he started to praise them (Nazis).”
Von Trier's comments ignited shock from the moment they spilled out of his mouth, causing Kirsten Dunst, an actress in his film Melancholia, to lean over and whisper to von Trier, “Oh my God, this is terrible.”
“What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end,” von Trier said in Cannes. “He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against Jews. ...
“I am very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass.”
North Zealand police spokesman Henrik Suhr didn't return calls seeking a comment and the police officer on duty declined to comment on the case.
With files from Associated Press