Dedicated to Lars von Trier (LVT)
«J’habite ma propre maison, je n’ai jamais imité personne en rien et je me ris de tout maître qui n’a su rire de soi-même. Inscription au-dessus de ma porte.»
«O Germany – Hearing the speeches that ring from your house, one laughs. But whoever sees you, reaches for his knife.»
– Bertolt Brecht, epigraph to Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem”.
«…wise enough to understand that the horrible can be not only ludicrous but outright funny.»
– Hannah Arendt, “Eichmann in Jerusalem”.
From my point of view, Lars Von Trier’s recent statements, at Cannes Festival, were funny, and, structurally, very Jewish.
The next day, the Festival directors held an extraordinary meeting, deciding his remarks were:
«unacceptable, intolerable and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the festival. (…) The board of directors condemns these comments and declares Lars von Trier persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately.»
It is getting too easy to be banned from some cultural institutions and catch the media attention worldwide. You just have to say something inconvenient about the Jews. “Beware” – as the cautious Jewish philosopher Spinoza (excomungated by Jewish community at 23) advised us.
Should we conclude that Zionist fundamentalists and pro-Israel moralistic censors are intending to exterminate the widely known Jewish sense of humour – Woody Allen, Larry David, Roberto Benigni, Todd Solondz, just to name some remarkable humorists? It really would be a pity, because “la vita è bella”, not the constant remembrance of an Holocaust.
There is no Holocaust (with capital letter). There is no such thing as “the worst holocaust in History”. There are just holocausts, all evil. Unfortunately, the History of mankind is full of them. Other State genocides and massacres have occurred in the 20th century, not only the Jewish holocaust, which is not even the leading one in terms of number of deaths: Stalinist regime (20 to 60 million were killed, 1924-1953), Asian Holocaust (6 to 10 million of victims, 1937-1945), etc. All quite perverse and with their own Mengele. Armenian victims were also gassed and subjected to medical mistreatments (beware of doctors!). I think that common people, citizens, should really reconsider their idea that a State is to secure them and take care of the common wealth. Statistical and real facts show the opposite: States are the worst enemies of their own civilians. States may become dangerous slaughtering machines. It was already known by Pao Ching-yen, in 4 A.D.:
«Disputes among ordinary people are merely trivial matters, for what scope of consequences can a contest strength between ordinary fellows generate? They have no spreading lands to arouse avarice… they wield no authority through which they can advance their struggle. Their power is not such that they can assemble mass followings, and they command no awe that might quell [such gatherings] by their opponents. How can they compare with a display of the royal anger, which they can deploy armies and move battalions, making people who hold no enemies attack states that have done no wrong.»
This ability of the State to congregate the mass comes from the Law, in first place. The Law tends to universalize, homogeneize, the naturally diverse individuals.
It is a deplorable mistake to say that “States are us”, an homogeneous collective. No, a State is operated by some diverse individuals who legislate over other diverse individuals who obbey or are punished, since state institutions and positions are fulfilled and ruled by individuals. To depersonalize States is a propaganda technique, in order to deresponsabilize and allienate the individuals, and, ultimately, to forge an administrative killing machine “without head”. It is unbelievable how the real number of deaths is never known and stat(e)-isticals (by name, “State numbers”) are said to be doubtful or uncertain. A total sum is indifferent and depersonalized. The individual matters so little.
Returning to the point. Lars von Trier at Cannes Festival.
After all, Trier was speaking about some autobiographical facts, since he was educated by a Jewish father (Ulf Trier), and only discovered later that his biological father was another man, a German (Fritz Hartmann). So, by education (-1), Trier is certainly better doing Jewish jokes than German ones.
If you don’t think that Trier’s jokes were funny, I think that you, Jews, are becoming Catholic, or worse, Protestant, definitely Christian – and this is a Nietzschean joke (0), for those who are able to get it.
Von Trier is not Galliano.
The fashion designer declared something that it is not worth to mention – “I love Hitler” (sentence that, by itself, could be expression of some sort of Christian love…) – but, then, followed hate comments typical from an inconsequent drunk man.
On the contrary, Von Trier was “sober” (1) when saying:
“I understand Hitler (…). I sympathise with him, yes, a little bit” [In a later conference, Lars adds he doesn’t sympathize for one second: his sympathy is a micro-singularity].
After a visibly uncomfortable Kirsten Dunst, sitting to his left, uttered a brief reproach to the film director’s ear, he added something quite important:
“They will come a point at the end of this”.
I would say that this is the whole point of Lars Von Trier’s speech and recent movie (about a “pointless” life, a “pointless” world).
He is, conscient and deliberately, provoking the audience to pursue an end: think, think about what I am saying, but think out of your usual frame of mind, think outside the box imposed on you by sujecting ideologies, think what is forbidden, tabu, and, perhaps, you will come a point.
The Holocaust is not the point, it is just a pre-text, something that Jewish people are sensitive to. Lars von Trier knows what he is doing, it is exactly what he wants: to provoke the sensitiveness of everyone in the room, but in a totally different manner from Galliano or Mel Gibson’s “Christ”. In a Nietzschean manner (2):
«Qui de vous peut en même temps rire et être élevé?!» (Nietzsche, “Also sprach Zarathustra”)
Do I have to explain to you what is the difference between love, understanding, and a little bit of sympathy? I may feel a little bit of sympathy for a corrupt politician, but don’t love him or understand him, for example.
The Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt had been also accused by critics of sympathising with the Nazis, paticularly, the burocrat Adolf Eichmann, in her book about his trial, “a report on the banality of evil” (3). Primo Levi shares with her such sympathetic attitude toward criminals:
«How a normal man can be distorted by a regime into becoming a murderer of millions. Hess had in fact a difficult youth . . . put to fighting the fedayeen in Iraq during the First World War. Anyway, he was not made out of other stuff than you and me. The human stuff he had. He was not born a criminal. He was not a freak. He was of standard human matter. But entering into this channel of nationalism and after that of Nazi education, his training made him into a Jasager—the one who always says Yes. Law-abiding.» – interview, Paris Review.
Do you want to keep on going that way? Forever morally judging our best souls in name of an obnoxious historical past that is gone and should not be repeated? So, why do you keep on repeating it, reproducing it?
Well, if you want to know the difference between love and sympathy, D. H. Lawrence explains it very well, while writing about the mistakes of Walt Whitman (4). Some of these mistakes make also part of Jewish ideologies of State and religion.
If you don’t try to reach a platform of understanding with the Nazis, you are contributing to keep Hitler in their altar, without actively exposing them to new points of view and stimulating them to evolute. I mean: if you put aside a piece of cloth for being a too heavy colour, instead of doing something to make it lighter, it won’t change by itself, it will keep on being heavy.
Laughter has that power of making people lighter. «Rire fortifie le coeur» (Chinese saying).
Diversifying human contacts temperates obsessive egologies. The phanatical, the terrorist, the inconscient, the tyrant, the sad – there is too much egology in all of them. That was also one of the traces of Eichmann’s character, as reported by Arendt:
«The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.»
Temperate the waters, instead of promoting ostracism. Go by the middle and don’t let an abyss of ice to crystallize in-between.
Don’t put aside, don’t imitate Hitler’s methods of tearing apart, or – which come to the same thing – the Zionist ideological programs for ghetto-ing, separating his own people from the others. With Israel, the Zionists got their final solution of divorce from the other people. I think this was what Arendt (5) and Deleuze (6) meant. And that is not only a problem of Zionists and Nazis, but of every nationalism that spread around Earth. Those narcissistic crystallized minds which judge the world by their image and resemblance (a feature linked to Judeo-Christian religion).
While we are reduced to chose exclusively between the opposite terms of a dichotomy – Jews OR Germans, Zionists OR Nazis – people are, in fact, supporting the maintenance of this manicheism, this recurring war of shock fronts. The cut feeds the dialectical division.
Especially, dont’ fall in the alternative between love and hate. Don’t fall, in love. “Love will tear us apart”, indeed, as Joy Division put it.
For Nazis: don’t fall in love with Hitler or Germany. For Zionists: don’t fall in love with Israel. Love and hate are forms of fanatism.
Sym-pathize! (from Greek sym, “conjoined”, + pathos, “passion, pathology”). Fill the gap. We’re together in affections (please understand this as a Spinozist concept).
This world wouldn’t go round without sympathy. Without sympathy, this world would suffer a total splitting-apart and would lose the capacity to become a symbol (sym + Greek for “ball”). The point is a symbol, even though, symbolism or symbolic thought is a mis-representation of the point.
In fact, those who are banning Lars von Trier from Cannes should be the ones to apologize for behaving in such a stupid way: apartheid-like (7). And boring to death.
Of course, this polemic – and a little bit of Jewish marketing – will boost the hype around Trier’s next movie.
The Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami also rejects dichotomic divisions in this way:
«If both of us were illiterate, life would be impossible! (…) I think that if the proprietors married the proprietors, the rich married the rich, and the illiterates married their equals, nothing would work. It is much better that people who can read marry illiterates, that the rich marry the poor, that the homeless marry the landowners. And thus, we could all help ourselves. I think that this is the best».
– “Through the Olive Trees” (1372 d. H./1993 d.C.).
Giving further developments to Kiarostami’s quote, I would add: “… that the Nazis marry the Jews” (or vice-versa).
Heidegger and Arendt almost did it, at least, philosophically speaking.
Who knows, maybe someday I will see Lars working with Larry (8) – two of the most brilliant satyrs in cinema today – and, finally, people will come a point.
But, only, if they don’t rely on the “grander scales” fostered by journalists, who make tempests in a glass of water.
Normally, journalists are not very sympathetic, and do not understand a thing.
Even if any of these things didn’t come to Trier’s mind, well, they came to mine.
(-1) LVT to Time Out magazine, September 2011:
“During the war, my mother went to Sweden because she was a resistance fighter and my adopted father went there because he was Jewish. My real father went to Sweden too as a freedom fighter. But they were German, that was what I meant. (…) This Jewishness is my upbringing… My decision is that I’m as good a Jew as anyone. That’s where I come from. I don’t give a shit where the sperm comes from. I’m a cultural Jew. (…) If I say to you now, I’m a Nazi, you’ll say: “What do you mean?”. And some sense might come out of it. (…) The real Nazis were the French. It’s this feeling I have that the whole anti-Semitic thing was something Hitler stole from the French. (…) I know it sounds unpleasant, but I believe we can learn things from what has happened, and if we make a lot of taboos about it, it will slow this process down or stop it completely – which would be so unfair to the people who died in Auschwitz, for instance.”
(0) Georges Bataille, “Extrait d’un enregistrement radiophonique”, 1959:
«[Nietzsche] proteste contre l’assignation d’un but aux choses, l’assignation d’un but au monde. Pour lui le monde n’a pas de but et par conséquent ce qu’il nous reste possible c’est de rire de ce qu’il est, mais non pas de rire comme il est banal de rire en s’apercevant d’une supériorité que l’on a sur celui dont on rit, mais de rire d’un rire définitif, de rire — on ne peut pas rire du monde comme d’une réalité par rapport à laquelle on se sent supérieur mais d’une réalité devant laquelle au contraire on sent sa petitesse — et par conséquent le rire dans les conditions nietzschéennes est un rire tragique. Il n’y a aucune possibilité de rire à partir de la connaissance de Nietzsche sans aller jusqu’au bout des possibilités du rire, c’est-à-dire de rire tragiquement, de rire comme on rirait devant un crucifix.»
(1) Conference in Mougins, France, after LVT have been declared “persona non grata” at Cannes Festival, May 2011:
“I had actually been drinking quite a lot, but now I’m sober,” he said. “I would suggest to everybody, don’t stop drinking. If I had been, I would be almost asleep at the press conference and would not have said those stupid things. (…) They are usually more intelligent than this.”
“I feel this obligation, which is completely stupid and very unprofessional, to kind of entertain the crowd a little bit.”
«Before the Hitler jokes, Mr. von Trier’s most provocative statements at the news conference concerned his ambivalence toward “Melancholia.” “I think I would like this film very much if I had not made it,” he said on Friday. “It was very easy to do a film that looks this way, that’s beautiful. Maybe it gave me too much pleasure to do it.”
He worried that some moments in “Melancholia” have ended up “in the area of kitsch,” which both attracts and disgusts him. Referring to a tableau in the film in which Ms. Dunst’s character lies naked on a riverbank under a glowing blue orb in the sky, Mr. von Trier said, “Hitler would have thought this is really art, and that’s also a little shameful that you are now suddenly into this art of the Third Reich.”
This brought him back to the question that started it all. “The vulgarity of the fascistic art has a naïveté and a power that is quite interesting,” he said. He called the architect Albert Speer and the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl “wonderful artists,” and emphasized that he was expressing admiration for aesthetics and not ideology. “The ideology, since it’s so clear, since it’s one-sided, makes it easier to make a design that has some power to it,” he added.
As for his next project, titled “The Nymphomaniac,” Mr. von Trier said, “I’m going into complete amorality.” The film shows “the erotic development of a woman” from birth to age 50, he said, adding that there would be both “hard-core and soft-core versions, and lots and lots of philosophy.”
“I’m very inspired, and I really long to do this,” he said, “so I hope that all this nonsense hasn’t made it impossible.”»
See also Time Out magazine, September 2011:
“I’m sober, and that press conference in Cannes was the first one I ever did sober.”
(2) According to Trier’s ever-dubious statements:
«I don’t know enough about Nietzsche; my problem was I have this “Anti-Christ” book laying on my table by the bed now for forty years and I haven’t opened it yet… so it’s just the title I know. I don’t want to say anything about Nietzsche other than to say that he, in the film, he suddenly embraces a horse over Wagner’s music, a scene which I liked.»
Trier has explicitly stated that, with his film “Antichrist” (2009), he has made what he always hated most: a symbolic film. The fact is that this movie was preceded by another, “De unge år: Erik Nietzsche sagaen del 1″ / “The Early Years: Erik Nietzsche – Part 1” (2007), written (and narrated, but not directed) by Lars Von Trier, under the self-mocking pseudonym of Erik Nietzsche, considered a semi-autobiographical exercise.
(3) The book Eichmann in Jerusalem – A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt caused a stir among Jewish community and intellectuals, such as, for instance, Gershom Scholem, who send her a letter:
«In the Jewish tradition there is a concept, hard to define and yet concrete enough, which we know as Ahabath Israel: “Love of the Jewish people….” In you, dear Hannah… I find little trace of this. Since the subject was the destruction of a third of the Jewish people, ‘I have little sympathy with that tone – well expressed by the English word “flippancy” – which you employed so often in the course of your book.»
Arendt replied to his letter, underlining the difference between the love of an undifferentiated collective (“people”) and the love of diverse individuals (“persons”):
«You are quite right – I am not moved by any ‘love’ of this sort, and for two reasons: I have never in my life ‘loved’ any people or collective – neither the German people, nor the French, nor the American, nor the working class or anything of that sort. I indeed ‘love’ only my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons. Secondly, this ‘love of the Jews’ would appear to me, since I am myself Jewish, as something rather suspect… I do not ‘love’ the Jews, nor do I ‘believe’ in them; I merely belong to them as a matter of course, beyond dispute or argument.»
Franz Kafka expressed a similar point of view in his “Diaries” – though, he doesn’t only rejects the love of the Jewish collective, but also the love for one’s “self” as a subject (someone who is subjected), characteristic of many tyrants:
“What do I have in common with the Jews? I don’t even have anything in common with myself.” – January 8, 1914.
(4) D. H. Lawrence, “Whitman” in “Studies in classic American literature”, 1923:
«Death is not the goal. And Love, and merging, are now only part of the death process. (…) The great home of the Soul is the open road. (…) The journey itself, down the open road. Exposed to full contact. On two slow feet. Meeting whatever comes down the open road. In company with those that drift in the same measure along the same way. Towards no goal. Always the open road. Having no known direction even. Only the soul remaining true to herself in her going. Meeting all the other wayfarers along the road. And how? How meet them, and how pass ? With sympathy, says Whitman. Sympathy. He does not say love. He says sympathy. Feeling with. Feel with them as they feel with themselves. Catching the vibration of their soul and flesh as we pass. It is a new great doctrine. A doctrine of life. A new great morality. A morality of actual living, not of salvation. Europe has never got beyond the morality of salvation. America to this day is deathly sick with saviourism. (…) The high-road of Love is no Open Road. It is a narrow, tight way, where the soul walks hemmed in between compulsions. (…) Love and Charity have degenerated now into habit: a bad habit. (…) Sympathy means feeling with, not feeling for. (…) Love, and Merging, brought Whitman to the Edge of Death! Death! Death!».
(5) Hannah Arendt, “Eichmann in Jerusalem – A Report on the Banality of Evil“:
«Wherever Jews lived, there were recognized Jewish leaders, and this leadership, almost without exception, cooperated in one way or another, for one reason or another, with the Nazis. The whole truth was that if the Jewish people had been really unorganized and leaderless, there would have been chaos and plenty of misery but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and half and six million people.»
(6) Gilles Deleuze, “The Grandeur of Yasser Arafat“, Revue d’ Etudes Palestiniennes, nº 18, 1984:
«The conquerors were those who had themselves suffered the greatest genocide in history. Of this genocide the Zionists have made an absolute evil [italics in original]. But transforming the greatest genocide in history into an absolute evil is a religious and mystical vision, not a historical vision. It doesn’t stop the evil; on the contrary, it spreads the evil, makes it fall once again on other innocents, demands reparation that makes these others suffer part of what the Jews suffered (expulsion, restriction to ghettos, disappearance as a people). With “colder” means than genocide, one ends up with the same result.»
(7) It has been noted that Israel has its own apartheid system: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_and_the_apartheid_analogy.
(8) The Jewish humorist Larry David.
[because none of the journalists I’ve read offered a rigorous one]
«It is said in the film that this is a pointless life, and a pointless world. Since you are the writer and director, is this some of your own opinion?
LVT: Oh yes.
Your films are very melancholic, but you are very funny in person, why aren’t you making comedies?
LVT: Because when I make comedies, they become melancholic also. This was actually a comedy, so you don’t want to see a tragedy!
Can you talk about your German roots, the Gothic aspects of this film, and the fact that you have mentioned in a Danish film magazine your interest in the Nazi aesthetic?
LVT – But, anyway, I know I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, you know, because my family was German – Hartmann – which also gave me some pleasure [laughs], so, I am kind of, ya, I… What can I say? I understand Hitler. But, I think he did some wrong things, absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker at the end… [Kirsten Dunst interrupts] What?… They will come a point at the end of this. They will come… No, I’m just saying that I think I understand the man. He’s not what you would call a good guy but, ya, I understand much about him and I sympathise with him a little bit, yes, but, come on, I am not for the Second World War, and I am not against Jews… Susanne Bier (1)… No, not even Susanne Bier. That was also a joke. I am, of course, very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass… But still, how can I get out of this sentence?
Someone at the table – By another question. Easy salvation.
LVT – No, I just want to say about the arts of… I am very much for Speer… Speer I liked. Albert Speer I liked (2). He was also, maybe, one of God‘s best children and he had some talents that was kind of possible to him to use joining… [sighs] OK, I’m a Nazi.»
Is this your answer to the Hollywood blockbuster, or could you see yourself doing something on a grander scale than this?
LVT: Yes that’s what we Nazis… we have a tendency to try and do things on a grander scale. Maybe you could persuade me into the Final Solution… with journalists.»
(1) Susanne Bier is a Danish Jewish film director, best known for her movie “In a Better World” (2010), which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
(2) Albert Speer was the leading architect of the Third Reich, later known as “the Nazi who said sorry”.
After being banned, Von Trier held a news conference of his own in Danish. His first remark to the Danish journalists was:
“If any of you journalists will beat me, so just do it. I will enjoy it.”
He went on to say that:
“The Holocaust is the worst crime that ever happened. I have nothing against Jews. I have a Jewish name, and all my children have Jewish names.”
“It was really stupidly done and it was in the wrong forum. At the press conference with Danish journalists, there were no problems, but I do not think the international journalists understand my Danish humor.”
“I am proud to have been declared ‘persona non grata’. It is perhaps the first time, in cinematic history, it has happened.”
“… I think one reason is that French people treated the Jews badly during World War II. Therefore, it is a sensitive topic for them. I respect the Cannes festival very highly, but I also understand that they are very angry at me right now.”
Speaking to other news outlets he said that his comments were:
“very sarcastic and very rude, but that’s very Danish.”
“I don’t sympathize with Hitler for one second.”
“It’s a pity because (Jewish festival head) Gilles Jacob is a close personal friend of mine”
“What I said was completely stupid but I am absolutely no Mel Gibson … What I meant was I could imagine what it was like for Hitler in the bunker, making plans. Not that I would do what Hitler did. But it’s a pity if it means I will lose contact with Cannes.”
Von Trier pointed to his own background – his stepfather is Jewish and he grew up thinking he had Jewish roots – to indicate how ridiculous it would be to call him an anti-Semite.
“I have to say I’m a little proud of being named a persona non grata. I think my family would be proud”
“I have a French order. Now they will likely tear it off my chest.”
The director said he would not be allowed “within 100 meters” of the Festival Palais and red carpet, meaning he will not attend the Cannes awards ceremony on Sunday, but was not certain if his films would also be banned.
“I hope not. Because even if I was Hitler – and I must now state for the record I am not Hitler – but even if I was Hitler and I made a great film, Cannes should select it.”
The Festival has kept Melancholia in Competition even as it has banned the controversial Danish director.
But his comments, and the reaction to them, are certain to have long-lasting effects, both on the reception of Melancholia and Von Trier’s career. Already the Argentine distributor of the film, citing Von Trier’s comments, said it would not release Melancholia.
The director himself admitted he may now have trouble in:
“raising money or getting certain actors to work with me”.
The actresses Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who were sitting to either side of him at the press conference, seemed shocked by what he was saying.
“I think Kirsten sees me as very European and crazy”
“But I don’t think Charlotte was shocked. Her father (singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg) was known for being provocative. She said to me ‘My father would have been proud of you.’”
Von Trier said he has not yet talked to Martin Scorsese, with whom he is planning a collaborative documentary: The Five Obstructions: Scorsese vs Trier. Von Trier said he is confident the project, which Magnolia pre-bought for North America just hours before the controversial Melancholia press conference, will go ahead.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet but Martin is very open minded”
Trying to explain his press conference comments, Von Trier admitted that, in part, he was playing his old role as Cannes’ agent provocateur.
“It sounds strange but I don’t like conflict. When I went into the press conference I felt like I should entertain people there”
“Everyone comes to see what crazy thing Lars is going to say. And then I started a sentence which I couldn’t get out of. At the time I didn’t think much about it. Everyone seemed to understand and there was laughter. It’s only afterwards, when you read it: ‘I sympathize with Hitler’ that I thought ‘oh boy.’”
From several sources, including this