×

Lars von Trier’s Production Company Accused of Allowing Sexual Harassment and Bullying

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. 

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content