Lars von Trier Producer Investigated Over Sexual Harassment Claims

Peter Aalbaek Jensen

Danish authorities are investigating allegations, from nine women, that Peter Aalbaek Jensen, who co-founded production group Zentropa with von Trier, repeatedly harassed and bullied female employees.

Danish authorities are investigating claims by nine women of sexual harassment and workplace bullying by Peter Aalbaek Jensen, the co-founder of Lars von Trier's production company Zentropa and a towering figure in European cinema.

The women, including former Zentropa producer Meta Louise Foldager Sorensen, who worked on von Trier's films Antichrist (2009) and Melancholia (2011), made their claims public in Danish newspaper Politiken. They allege that “sexual harassment have long been part of the work environment for many employees” at Zentropa and that Jensen was “one of the main figures perpetuating the system of degradation.”

Among the allegations, former employees claim that Jensen “would grope their breasts time and again” and “arranged sexually degrading acts on stage at the company Christmas party in front of guests from the film industry.”

Jensen co-founded Zentropa with von Trier in 1992 and produced more than 70 films with the company, including Dancer in the Dark (2000), Dogville (2003) and Nymphomaniac (2013). Jensen resigned as CEO of Zentropa in 2016 but is still active as a producer and has an executive producer credit on von Trier's upcoming serial-killer drama The House That Jack Built starring Matt Dillon. He also holds a 25 percent share in Zentropa together with von Trier.

Quoted in the Politiken report, Jensen did not deny the claims, saying the events “probably happened," but added that his actions were about “testing boundaries,” not “submission and degradation. ... There have been plenty of times when I’ve been over the top or gone too far. And I stand by that fully. But the question is whether you are an adored leader or not. And I am an adored leader.”

After the allegations were made public, Swedish producer Film i Vast said it would no longer work with Jensen as an executive producer on its co-productions. The Swedish company said it had “zero tolerance against all forms of harassment.”

Von Trier has also indirectly been the target of harassment allegations, with singer Bjork claiming an unnamed Danish director “humiliated” and “harassed” her. Von Trier has denied that he is that director. Jensen had made light of Björk's claims, alleging that he and von Trier “were victims” of Björk during the shoot for Dancer in the Dark.

In a statement to ScreenDaily, current Zentropa CEO Anders Kjærhauge said the company would initiate changes to its workplace culture to achieve a better balance “between art and business, between rules and chaos, between women and men, between challenging boundaries and respecting boundaries.”