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Lars Von Trier Revisits Nazi Comments, Talks Jewish Roots

Lars Von Trier

First Posted: 09/07/11 12:02 PM ET Updated: 11/07/11 05:12 AM ET

Lars Von Trier just can't help himself when it comes to the Nazi talk. This time around, though, he's bringing a whole lot more nuance to the conversation.

The controversial director, whose deadpan admission to Nazism and sympathy for Hitler scored him a lifetime ban from the Cannes Film Festival last spring, spoke at a public Q&A at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday and tried to defend his statements.

"There was a point to this whole thing," he said (via The Hollywood Reporter). "I think history shows that we are all Nazis somewhere, and there are a lot of things that can be suddenly set free, and the mechanics behind this setting-free is something we really should really investigate, and the way we do not investigate it is to make it a taboo to talk about it."

Presumably, he was talking about the roaming scourge of bigotry and hatred that has settled throughout a multitude of countries throughout history. And so, it's conceivable that, in his own bumbling way, he was looking to start a dialog about such things. And a recent interview with the UK's Independent certainly gives credence to his insistence that he really was kidding with his comments, which included him saying of Hitler, "He's not what you would call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit."

As it turns out, he told the paper, von Trier had a non-relationship with his biological father, and instead was raised by a man he thought was his actual father, Ulf Trier. He spoke glowingly of him, and in doing so claimed a Jewish heritage.

"After all this nonsense in Cannes, I am claiming that since he was Jewish and gave me a cultural Jewish upbringing, I am as good a Jew as any," he said. "Maybe he didn't give the sperm but he gave me a family and a background."

That jibes with what von Trier said at Cannes.

"The only thing I can tell you is that I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew..." he said. "But it turned out that I was not a Jew. If I'd been a Jew, then I would be a second-wave Jew, a kind of a new-wave Jew, but anyway, I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi. Because my family was German."

Whether or not this helps his upcoming film, "Melancholia," a visually stunning portrait of a wedding amidst the end of the world, remains to be seen. But it at least helps the public understand a complicated artist.

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Filed by Jordan Zakarin  |