Lars Von Trier: No Sympathy for Melancholy

Lars Von Trier, the enfant terrible of Danish cinema, got his foot stuck in his trachea during a press conference for his film “Melancholia,” at Cannes Film Festival. When asked about [fill in the blank; it doesn’t really matter], he answered:

I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because my family is German. And that also gave me some pleasure. So, I, what can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things but I can see him sitting in his bunker. I’m saying that I think I understand the man. He is not what we could call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him.

It seems like the title of his most recent film made him melancholic for Nazi Germany. The public outrage was immediate. Von Trier is one of the darlings of Cannes Film Festival, having won a Palm D’Or in 2000 for his film “Dancer in the Dark.” Still, that award was not enough to prevent a swift condemnation from Cannes against his show of sympathy towards Hitler and his attempt to trivialize the Holocaust. The ultimate result of his rant: Von Trier was declared persona non grata (although his film continues to compete for the prize).

***

I grew up in Cuba, under an antisemitic regime (yes, Castro Inc.) that constantly violates basic freedoms, including, but not limited to, freedom of expression. That is to say that I take the right to speak rather seriously. Still, even if I weren’t a Jew-lover (which I totally am: my wife is a member of the tribe), I’d still agree with the decision of the Film Festival: Von Trier is verbotten forevermore. Freedom of expression should end right where making light of genocide begins.

The previous sentence makes me think of a totally cool, sexy, trendy, ultra-literary spot in NYC named KGB Bar.

But, first, please allow me to digress. During the reign of terror of Joseph Stalin, his victims amounted to twenty million, killed with the enthusiastic participation of the KGB. If you missed the Cold War and have not rented the Oscar winner “The Lives of Others” (about the Stasi, the KGB’s East German cousin): the KGB was, until 1991, the national internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization of the Soviet Union, in charge, among other heinous crimes, of suppressing “ideological subversion,” which included repressing, arresting and murdering countless writers and intellectuals.

Speaking of which, there’s also a tongue-in-cheek “general knowledge questions and answers” online service called “KGB Answers.” How cute. And how terribly inaccurate. The KGB trademark was not its “answers.” It was its questions.

That being the case, I can only wonder how the KGB mutated from a cemetery where ideas went to die into a friendly online service? Why did the KGB become a cool NYC bar where cool people go to read their cool prose and even cooler poetry? And when will trivializing the victims of the KGB, Stalin and communism become politically incorrect?

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