In a statement released Friday, Zentropa CEO Peter Aalbaek Jensen — who co-founded the Danish production company with Von Trier in 1992 — said: “Zentropa would like to apologize to all persons, business partners, staff and institutions that, in connection with Lars von Trier’s comments, have been inflicted in any way.”
Von Trier and Aalbaek Jensen hold a 25% stake in Zentropa; 25% is owned by its employees, and 50% is held by Nordisk Film.
In a rambling rant Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, Von Trier had described himself as a Nazi and expressed sympathy for Adolf Hitler.
Aalbaek Jensen attempted to portray the incident as a joke that had gone too far. “We would like to make it perfectly clear that Zentropa does not share Lars von Trier’s view of what might be funny to say at a press conference, and that his comments are a direct contradiction of Zentropa’s values,” Aalbaek Jensen said.
He said that Von Trier had “expressed his regret for the fact that he, in an attempt to be funny, has stepped on a group of people who have experienced insufferable losses.”
The statement said Von Trier was not prejudiced against those of Jewish decent and did not sympathize with Hitler, “nor the consequences of his actions.”
Aalbaek Jensen also expressed the company’s “deepest regrets” to director Susanne Bier, who Von Trier had disparaged during the same presser.
Von Trier had said: “For a long time I thought I was a Jew, and I was happy to be a Jew. Then I met Susanne Bier, and I wasn’t so happy.”
Zentropa produced Bier’s “In a Better World,” which won the foreign-language film Oscar this year, and is producing Bier’s upcoming film “All You Need Is Love.”
Aalbaek Jensen concluded by saying: “We hope that we, in time, may regain your trust, and will do all we can to rectify the damage that Lars von Trier’s remarks may have caused.”
Meanwhile, Zentropa’s sister company TrustNordisk, which is the international sales agents for Von Trier’s “Melancholia,” downplayed the impact of the debacle on the film.
Speaking to “Variety,” CEO Rikke Ennis said it was too early to say what impact the incident would have on the film’s distribution.
“So far Argentina is the only country to have cancelled,” she said. “I don’t think it will have an impact on ‘Melancholia’ since the film itself has nothing to do with Lars’ comments.
“We will have to be patient, and wait and see.”
She said she was pleased that the director had expressed his regret about his “unfortunate comments.”
Zentropa’s international partners may be less forgiving.
Italo arthouse distributor, Teodora Films, which is co-producing “All You Need Is Love,” issued a statement in solidarity with Bier.
“Von Trier’s words, even though he said them jokingly, are absolutely unacceptable,” said Teodora’s Cesare Petrillo.
“As Susanne Bier’s (Italian) distributor and co-producer, I feel offended, and express my solidarity to her, and make the solemn promise that we will never release a Von Trier movie in Italy.”
Von Trier’s comments have also been condemned by those closer to home. In a statement issued Thursday, Henrik Bo Nielsen, CEO of the Danish Film Institute, which has contributed coin to many Zentropa films, including “Melancholia,” said: “It is unfortunate that great cinema should drown in such controversy totally irrelevant to the film itself. But there’s nothing new in the fact that great artists make stupid remarks.”
However, apart from the Argentine distrib, none of the international buyers of Von Trier’s film contacted by “Variety” expressed any intention of pulling it. Its North American distrib, Magnolia, said it will release the film in the fall as skedded, as did U.K. distrib Artificial Eye, which bows the film Sept. 30.
“We are looking forward to bringing this extraordinary film to U.K. audiences then,” said a rep for the company.
Josetxo Moreno, co-founder of Spanish distrib Golem Distribucion, confirmed that he was standing by the film. “Yes, we will distribute the film without any doubt,” he told “Variety.”
The Belgian distrib, Imagine Film, is waiting for the dust to settle. “We will assess the situation after the festival,” said topper Christian Thomas.
Nick Vivarelli, Nick Holdsworth, Emiliano de Pablos and Ian Mundell contributed to this report.