Helmer under investigation for Nazi comments at Cannes

Danish director Lars von Trier has revealed that he is under police investigation on suspicion of violating French law against public justification of war crimes and said he will no longer make public statements or give interviews.

In a statement issued by his London publicist, von Trier said he was interviewed Wednesday by Danish police regarding charges made by French prosecutors in August over his remarks at the Cannes press conference for his film “Melancholia.”

Von Trier caused a media storm when he said he “understood” and “sympathized” with Hitler, adding, “OK, I’m a Nazi.” He later apologized, claiming it was just a clumsy joke, but was declared persona non grata by the fest organizers.

According to his producer Peter Aalbeck Jensen, von Trier learned about the French charges last week.

In his statement, von Trier said, “Due to these serious accusations, I have realized that I do not have the skills to express myself unequivocally, and I have therefore decided from this day forth to refrain from all public statements and interviews.”

French law sets a maximum punishment of five years’ imprisonment and a €45,000 fine for public statements challenging the existence of Nazi crimes against humanity.

Jensen said the charges by the French prosecutors had been triggered by a complaint from an unnamed public watchdog responsible for monitoring hate speech. The Danish police, acting on behalf of the French, asked von Trier to explain his comments. “We think he has explained himself for the last five months in the press, but of course we have to respect that there’s a democratic right in France if you are offended to put a case to the police,” Jensen said.

Jensen insisted that von Trier is serious in his pledge not to give interviews or speak at press conferences, whether for “Melancholia” or any other film in the future. “It’s been quite a surprise to him that he’s so hard for people to understand,” Jensen said. “He’s left-wing; in Denmark, he’s known as anything but a Nazi propagandist, but since everybody misunderstands his jokes, he thinks maybe it’s better if he doesn’t speak.”

Von Trier’s statement in full read: “Today at 2 p.m. I was questioned by the police of North Zealand in connection with charges made by the prosecution of Grasse in France from August 2011 regarding a possible violation of prohibition in French law against justification of war crimes. The investigation covers comments made during the press conference in Cannes in May 2011.

“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.”

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