Zentropa, the leading Scandinavia production company founded by Lars von Trier and Peter Aalbæk Jensen, has been accused by nine Danish women of fostering an environment where sexual harassment, degradation and bullying are rife. Labor inspectors are looking into the allegations, the Danish newspaper Politiken said Monday.
The move comes after Politiken published allegations of a toxic workplace environment from women including Meta Louise Foldager Sørensen, who worked at Zentropa from 2006 to 2010 and produced von Trier’s “Antichrist” and “Melancholia,” and Anna Mette Lundtofte, a writer and journalist who worked at Zentropa for three years before publishing the book “Zentropia” in 2013.
“I think that everyone who has been employed by Zentropa has been exposed to or witnessed certain things – both sexually charged acts and bullying or ‘teasing.’ All of this was an ingrained part of the culture,” said Foldager Sørensen, who went on to found SAM Productions with Soren Sveistrup (“The Killing”) and Adam Price (“Borgen”).
Lundtofte said she “saw women being degraded” at Zentropa.
“According to the Zentropa propaganda, I would be part of an ‘alternative work culture,’ but in reality, I encountered an old-fashioned, patriarchal power structure,” said Lundtofte.
While von Trier was not directly accused in the report, Aalbæk Jensen, the co-founder and former CEO of the company, is being accused of sexual misconduct by several women. Former employees told Politiken that he would grope their breasts and spank them, and arranged “several sexually degrading acts on stage at the company Christmas party.”
Aalbæk Jensen responded to Politiken’s article by saying he has “no interest in submission and humiliation” but that he is “interested in challenging boundaries, even up to the red line.”
Zentropa’s current managing director, Anders Kjærhauge, told Variety that he had no comment on the specific allegations but that the company would examine its practices and will issue a set of guidelines for the company’s working culture and environment.
“These are personal experiences and I am sad that this is how they feel, but this is not the Zentropa I know,” said Kjærhauge.
“We will initiate a process with our employees in order to prepare a more clear vision in regards to what is a good working place. Zentropa has always been an act of balance between art and business, between rules and chaos, between women and men, between challenging boundaries and respecting boundaries, and so forth,” Kjærhauge said. “The various discussions and writings in Denmark has made it clear to us that we need to make a ‘service check’ on our act of balance.”
In a statement released on Monday on behalf of the company’s management, the company said “it will not be a part of Zentropa’s culture to give or receive smack as neither reward nor punishment….The company culture at Zentropa will continue to be colorful and alterative, but we do not wish to violate anyone’s rights or insult anyone.”
Icelandic musician Björk said in October that she was harassed by a Danish film director while working on his movie years prior. Björk has acted in only two films: 1990 Icelandic pic “The Juniper Tree,” directed by Nietzchka Keene, and 2000’s “Dancer in the Dark,” directed by von Trier.