Director Lars von Trier poses at Nikki Beach for the Perrier Jouet celebration of "The House that Jack Built" on May 14, 2018 in Cannes, France. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Nikki Beach)


Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier faces criticism after stating ‘Russian lives matter also’


Controversial Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier is facing a major backlash after writing on Instagram that “Russian lives matter also”, slamming the decision of his country’s government to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

The move to send the US-made combat aircraft came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy’s visit to Denmark where he, along with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, examined the 19 F-16s scheduled for delivery to Ukraine.

On August 23, Von Trier addressed his post on Instagram 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).”

The filmmaker then disabled the ability to put comments under his post, indicating his awareness of what could follow. Ukrainian and Russian media picked up on the post.

Russian users of social media and journalists eagerly shared them across the internet. “Denmark and the Netherlands have led the push to arm Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, despite Russia’s warnings that this would escalate the conflict,” Russian state outlet RT wrote.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, criticised the Danish director, writing: “War is not a movie where actors play life and death. Behind every living Russian terrorist is a killed Ukrainian.

“The choice between the executioner and the victim becomes a tragedy when the artist chooses the side of the executioner. Ukraine does not live in an abstraction, but in a cruel reality in which the Russians are murderers.”

He added: “Simple advice to a famous director: imagine that a Russian missile flies into his city every day, that his father or mother were killed, that his grandson was taken to Russia, and that a Russian marauder raped his wife, before burning down his house.

“In this case, the abstraction of hypocritical ‘humanism’ acquires completely different features – real, not fictional life.”

The popular social media account Viségrad 24 suggested on X, formerly Twitter, to “send Von Trier to Bucha, on an education trip”, referring to the mass murder of unarmed civilians in the Ukrainian city by the Russian army in March 2022.

The 67-year-old filmmaker hit back on August 24, posting: “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,” he said.

The Danish press also picked up on the remarks from the director, who in 2011 caused a storm when he said during a press conference for the film Melancholia that he “understood” Hitler. He was ejected and subsequently investigated by Danish police, later apologising for the comments.

During an interview with the Danish newspaper Politiken, Jakob Baek Kristensen, a communications and media lecturer at Roskilde University, stated that Russia would greet von Trier’s initial 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,” he said.

Von Trier is renowned for contentious movies including Antichrist, Dogville and The Idiots, several of which are noted for their graphic depictions of violence and sexuality.

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