Lars von Trier set for Cannes return after seven-year ban

Festival boss hints that Danish director’s new serial killer film will join lineup – overturning expulsion imposed after ‘unacceptable’ comments in 2011

Cannes is set to add the newest film from Lars von Trier to its 2018 lineup, ending a seven-year ban of the controversial director at the film festival.

Von Trier was made persona non grata by Cannes after jokingly declaring himself a Nazi and expressing sympathy for Adolf Hitler during a 2011 press conference for his Palme d’Or-nominated film Melancholia. At the time the Danish director’s comments were described by the Cannes board as “unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the festival”.

However, speaking to French radio station Europe 1, festival director Thierry Frémaux suggested that negotiations to lift Von Trier’s outcast status were ongoing and that an announcement regarding his latest film, The House That Jack Built, would be made in the coming days.

When asked to confirm whether that meant the film would feature in in the lineup, Frémaux replied: “I sort of did.”

Lars von Trier sports a Persona Non Grata T-shirt at Berlin 2014.
Lars von Trier sports a Persona Non Grata T-shirt at Berlin 2014. Photograph: Kurt Krieger/Corbis via Getty Images

Described by Von Trier as a celebration of “the idea that life is evil and soulless”, The House That Jack Built stars Matt Dillon as a serial killer who commits a series of murders over a 12-year period. The film is expected to prove polarising, with insiders in a Hollywood Reporter article describing it as containing “scenes of extreme brutality and violence” comparable to Von Trier’s much-criticised 2009 film Antichrist.

Von Trier was the subject of further controversy last October after Icelandic pop singer Björk claimed that the director had sexually harassed her on the set of his 2000 film Dancer in the Dark, and that his behaviour was “enabled ... and encouraged” by a “staff of dozens”. Von Trier has denied the allegations, though conceded that he and Björk were “definitely not friends” during production on the film.

The director’s expected presence on the Croisette is likely to stir further acrimony at a festival that has already received criticism for the relatively low number of female film-makers in its competition lineup. Just three of the 17 films in the official selection have been directed by women, although women make up a majority of directors in films chosen for the festival’s Critics’ week lineup.

Von Trier promotes his new film, The House That Jack Built, with its US stars Matt Dillon and Uma Thurman.
Von Trier promotes his new film, The House That Jack Built, with its US stars Matt Dillon and Uma Thurman. Photograph: Björn Larsson Rosvall/AFP/Getty Images

As well as hinting at Von Trier’s return, Frémaux also announced that Leviathan film-maker Andrey Zvyagintsev would serve on the jury of this year’s official selection. The Russian director was in competition last year with his film Loveless.

Also announced on Tuesday was the lineup of the Director’s fortnight, an independent sidebar that has run alongside the main festival since 1968. Among the films selected are provocative Argentinian director Gaspar Noé’s latest effort Climax and Panos Cosmatos’s horror film Mandy, which stars Nicolas Cage.

  • Explore the full Cannes lineup here


Gwilym Mumford

The GuardianTramp

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