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Zentropa, TrustNordisk speak out about Lars von Trier Cannes controversy

Lars von Trier’s business partner and producer Aalbæk Jensen says Nazi comments 100% crossed the line but ‘he’s just a Danish guy trying to be funny’; sales company says only one distributor has pulled out of releasing Melancholia.

Lars Von Trier’s business partner (and co-founder of Zentropa) Peter Aalbæk Jensen has given his response to the furore surrounding Von Trier’s ill-judged remarks at the Melancholia press conference in Cannes.

“He did not make a Mel Gibson (sic)…he is not a racist or Nazi or anti-Semite who got drunk in the middle of the night and revealed his pure opinions. He’s just a Danish guy trying to be funny,” Jensen said of Von Trier.

“Everybody knows that he doesn’t at all sympathise with these ideas. He just made a bad joke…and also to try to fix a bad joke by telling more bad jokes. It’s quite human.”

Jensen added that Von Trier’s remarks were “extremely stupid” given that “we have a film (in Melancholia) that is quite significant and might have a chace to get some kind of prize.” [Despite von Trier being deemed a ‘persona non grata’ by the Cannes board, his film is still in Competition.]

The Zentropa boss claimed that he and Von Trier had originally planned to keep “a low profile” in Cannes and let the film speak for itself. “My beloved partner through 23 years simply went over the line and he is extremely sorry about it. Normally, he has gone up to the line and sometimes (some would say) a little bit over but this time he has gone 100% over,” Jensen said of Von Trier’s Nazi jokes. “Out of tradition in Denmark, you are allowed to say anything to anybody.”

Jensen was censorious of Von Trier’s references to fellow Danish director Susanne Bier during the now notorious press conference. “We don’t sympathise that he tried to involve other of our good directors in his freak show down here.”

Asked whether he thought Cannes would eventually forgive Von Trier, Jensen said: “Let’s see. Normally, Cannes is a place of extreme tolerance.”

Rikke Ennis, CEO of TrustNordisk (handling sales on Melancholia) has also expressed her dismay and sadness at Von Trier’s controversial remarks. She confirmed that one distributor - Distribution Company in Argentina - has now cancelled its contract to release Von Trier’s movie (but another Argentinean buyer is in talks to take the film).

Ennis also stated hat the many other distributors who’ve bought the film will be sticking to their original release plans - at least for now.
“It is such a sad way of ending Cannes,” Ennis remarked. “All the vibes were so fantastic and then a stupid comment like that puts us back to the very beginning.”

The TrustNordisk boss said that although the Melancholia distributors were “embarrassed and ashamed” by Von Trier’s remarks, “they really distinguish between the films and Von Trier’s comments. Nobody can really control what he says. You have a fantastic film like Melancholia. Most people absolutely loved it and think that it is one ofLars’ most commercial titles ever and that it can really make some box-office.”

Ennis also said that the Cannes scandal surrounding Von Trier shouldn’t affect future plans for The Five Obstructions collaboration the Danish director is planning with Martin Scorsese.

She suggested that making Von Trier a “persona non grata” in Cannes was a “a very hardcore thing to do” but added “we of course very much respect Cannes for doing that as we’re not talking peanuts here.”

In spite of the fall-out surrounding Von Trier’s remarks, the director’s publicists have confirmed that Von Trier and his cast did interviews as planned, although Charlotte Gainsbourg begged off as she was feeling unwell (her baby is due in July).

“We hope and think that it (the scandal) will not have major consequences. We don’t see that yet but we don’t foresee the future,” Ennis stated.

Melancholia will be released in Denmark next Thursday.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Maybe it is time that the Danes rethink their so-called "right to say anything to anybody". It sounds incredibly immature, disrespectful and thoughtless. Every kid in every family know that ground rule no. 1 is that you cannot!

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