Update: At the behest of Cannes officials, the director was asked to provide an explanation for his statements, and issued the following comment via the festival's website.
"The director states that he let himself be egged on by a provocation. He presents his apology."
Really kicking it up a notch, the experimental filmmaker responded to a question about the "Nazi aesthetic" with some gems. "I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely," said the director. "I sympathize with him a little bit."
Yeah, these are what he considers jokes, people. Read on for more hilarity.
About 35 minutes into the press conference, the director's standup routine kicked into gear after a question about comments he'd once made about the Nazi aesthetic.
"I thought I was a Jew for a long time. I was very happy being a Jew. Then later on came Susanne Bier [Oscar winning Jewish, Danish director] and then suddenly I wasn't so happy being a Jew. Uh no, that was a joke. Sorry," he said, later adding. "I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out I was really a Nazi, because my family was German. Which also gave me some pleasure.
"What can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely," he said. "He's not what you'd call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit."
At one point, it appears that a visibly uncomfortable Kirsten Dunst touches Von Trier to perhaps get him to stop talking. Nice try.
The director wanted to be clear on a few points. "But come on, I'm not for the Second World War. And I'm not against the Jews," he said. "I am of course very much for Jews. No, not too much, because the Israeli's are a pain in the ass, but still...How can I get out of this sentence?"
Then he finds his way out: "OK. I'm a Nazi."
Earlier in the press conference, Von Trier had also joked that his next project was a three-to-four hour "porn film" featuring his Melacholia stars Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who shared the press conference stage with him. He even insisted that there would be "lots of uncomfortable sex," thereby upping the ante on offensive content.
But back to his "A" material, the Nazi stuff. When asked if he'd like to get away from doing his small, art house films, he replied, "Yeah, we Nazis have a tendency to try to do things on a greater scale. Yeah, maybe you could persuade me [to do] The Final Solution—with journalists."
Despite his attempt to craft killer material out of the work of genocidal killers, not everybody's laughing. Abraham A. Foxman, spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League, tells The Hollywood Reporter that von Trier "seems to be struggling with some personal ghosts. This is one way I guess he resolved them, in a very, very bizarre way....It was a diatribe with a crescendo that got worse."
"I'm struggling," Foxman says. "I don't know where one begins. Asking for an apology? Where do you start?"
True, where would you start? It's always funny until somebody—or six million somebodys—gets murdered.