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Lars von Trier Facing French Charges for Hitler Statements

Lars von Trier

May 18: Director Lars von Trier arrives on the red carpet for the screening of the film "Melancholia" at the 64th Cannes Film Festival.Reuters

Danish film director Lars von Trier says he's facing charges of violating a French law against justification of war crimes over statements he made about Adolf Hitler and Jews during the film festival in Cannes.

Von Trier addressed the investigation in a brief statement Wednesday that he said would be his last, ever.

"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," von Trier said.

The director said he was questioned by police in North Zealand, Denmark, in connection with charges made by the prosecution of Grasse in France.

Von Trier was ejected from the Cannes Film Festival in May after expressing sympathy for Hitler at a news conference for his film "Melancholia."

In a rambling speech, the filmmaker spoke about his German heritage, saying his ancestry made him "sympathize with (Hitler) a little bit." He added that he supports Jews. The director said afterward he had been joking and later issued an apology.

He later retracted the apology, telling GQ magazine that he wasn't sorry, but wished he had made clear that he was joking.

Peter Aalbaek Jensen, co-founder with von Trier of the Zentropa film company, said he had talked to the director Wednesday, and confirmed he did not wish to speak to the media ever again.

"He has decided today to muzzle himself. He takes this extremely seriously," Aalbaek Jensen said.

"He is a colorful and entertaining person and he has never had the intention or wish to offend anyone," Jensen said. "He has now spent five months explaining himself. He is a self-declared socialist and humanist and speaks up for the little people. It would be absurd if he started to praise them (Nazis)."

Von Trier's comments ignited shock from the moment they spilled out of his mouth, causing Kirsten Dunst, an actress in his film "Melancholia," to lean over and whisper to von Trier, "Oh my God, this is terrible."

"What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end," von Trier said at the time. "He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against Jews. ...

"I am very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass."

North Zealand police spokesman Henrik Suhr didn't return calls seeking a comment and the police officer on duty declined to comment on the case.

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