Lars von Trier speared over 'Antichrist'

Reporters at Cannes demand he explain himself

CANNES -- Declaring himself "the world's greatest director," 53-year-old Dane Lars von Trier defended his enfant terrible title with aplomb at the Monday news conference for his Competition shocker "Antichrist."

It started with a shouting match between Daily Mail columnist Baz Bamigboye and other members of the press corps, with Bamigboye demanding von Trier "explain and justify" the explicit sexual gore in his film and another journo in the audience yelling "He's an artist, you're not. He doesn't have to explain anything!"

And he didn't. On questions both abusive and toadying, von Trier maintained his autistic savant persona, deliberately avoiding any explanation of "Antichrist," alternatively mocking or dismissing his interrogators.

"I don't have to explain anything. You are all my guests here, not the other way round," von Trier said. "Anyway, I don't think about the audience when I make a film. I don't care. I make films for myself."

Von Trier did defend his use of nausea-inducing imagery -- including a bloody masturbation scene and a leg-drilling sequence that could have been cribbed from the "Saw" franchise -- as artistic "honesty," saying to leave the shockers out would have been "like lying."

He also insisted he was not playing a joke on the audience but meant everything, from the film's talking fox to the closing dedication to Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, a dedication that drew howls of laughter at last night's press screening, to be taken seriously.

But, as always, von Trier tried to have it both ways, joking that it was "a bit of a pity" one can't actually kill people on screen and putting the blame for the most extreme scenes on lead actress Charlotte Gainsbourg.

"Charlotte took it too far. I tried to, but I just couldn't stop her," von Trier quipped.