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Danish director Lars von Trier defends his controversial 'Russian lives matter' comments

Director Lars Von Trier is in hot water again (pictured here at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011)
Director Lars Von Trier is in hot water again (pictured here at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011) Copyright Francois Mori/AP2011
Copyright Francois Mori/AP2011
By David Mouriquand
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The filmmaker's comments have attracted the attention of Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, who said: “The choice between the executioner and the victim becomes a tragedy when the artist chooses the side of the executioner."

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Danish filmmaker and controversy magnet Lars von Trier defended himself after a controversial social media post critical of Denmark's donation of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine landed him in hot water.

The veteran provocateur behind the Palme d’Or-winning Dancer in the Dark, and others like Melancholia and Nymphomaniac, wrote “Russian lives matter also!” on Instagram this week, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to Denmark.

Von Trier's post was addressed to "Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Putin, and not least Mrs. Frederiksen (who yesterday, like someone head over heels in love, posed in the cockpit of one of the scariest killing machines of our time, grinning from ear to ear). “Russian lives matter also! Best regards, Lars.”

Von Trier’s post attracted the attention of Russian and Ukrainian media.

Von Trier’s post was reshared on Twitter/X by Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, who wrote: “War is not a movie where actors play life and death. Behind every living Russian terrorist, there is a dead Ukrainian.”

“The choice between the executioner and the victim becomes a tragedy when the artist chooses the side of the executioner. Ukraine doesn’t live in abstraction, but in a cruel reality in which Russians are murderers. A simple piece of advice for a famous director: imagine that it is a Russian missile that is flying into his city every day, that his father or mother was killed, his grandson was taken to Russia, and that a Russian looter raped his wife before burning down his house. In this case, the abstraction of hypocritical ‘humanism’ takes on completely different features – real, not fictional life.”

Defending his remarks, the 67-year-old filmmaker followed up by saying: "I was just stating the obvious: that all lives in this world matter! A forgotten phrase it seems, from a time when pacifism was a virtue.”

In an interview with Danish daily Politiken, university lecturer Jakob Baek Kristensen said Russia would welcome von Trier's first post "with open arms".

"He supports the idea that Russia is not a heartless aggressor, and that it is a legitimate conflict in which Russia is just as unhappy each time it suffers losses," the social media researcher said.

The Danish director also made headlines last week after sharing a video on Instagram advertising his desire for a “girlfriend and muse”.

He says in the clip: “I don’t know what I’ve dragged myself into this time. So before I drown myself in smug advertising, let me make a few things clear. I am 67 years old. I have Parkinson’s, OCD and an at the moment controlled alcoholism. In short, with any luck I should still have a few decent movies left in me. All this is meant as an old-school contact ad, where I, without knowing the least about social media, [am] looking for a female girlfriend/muse. And despite all the whining, I still insist that on a good day, in the right company, I can be quite a charming partner. Thank you for your infinite patience.”

Known for his dark sense of humour, Von Trier is no stranger to controversy – most notably when, in 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival, he stated during a press conference for the film Melancholia that he “understood” Hitler. He was expelled by the organisers and subsequently investigated by Danish police. He later apologised for the remark.

In 2017, musician and actor Björk, whom von Trier directed in the 2000 musical film Dancer in the Dark, accused the filmmaker of sexual harassment.

Additional sources • AFP, Politiken

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