Saturday, April 28, 2012


May 18, 2011 (Festival de Cannes)
136 min

Written and Directed by Lars von Trier

"Melancholia" begins with beauty, awkward humor, and some provoking drama, but these qualities do not last. By the time it finally draws its heavy curtains you will be glad to be done with this flamboyant bore.

Von Trier's lastest made quite a fuss at Festival de Cannes last summer. His lead, Kirsten Dunst, took home the Best Actress award. Von Trier himself left with nothing but a ban from Cannes for remarks he made. That does not (and should not) affect my review, though it's telling that the same arrogant artist who made those comments made this film. I have only seen some of the controversial Danish director's films. Each time I enter intrigued and a little weary. "Melancholia" will certainly make me think twice before I seek another.

The film's opening is elegant as a classic oil painting. We observe some 8 minutes of a few souls in slow-motion struggles before an apocalyptic calamity claims their lives. Namely, a planet called Melancholia crashing into Earth. The whole sequence is set to Richard Wagner's prelude to "Tristan und Isolde." See this opening if nothing else (maybe I can convince you to see nothing else).

What follows is Justine's (Dunst) wedding night. She and her groom arrive hours late, but this is far from the worst thing to transpire that evening. A bride's highly dysfunctional family, her being the ringleader, make for a dreadful party for their guests. For the most part this manages to be compelling, but it drags on for us like it does the wedding-goers.

After the long night is over we are only halfway through the film. The second part follows Justine's sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). They both play significant parts in each other's portions. Both become fixated on this planet that gets closer and closer. Because we have no reason to sympathize for these characters, Melancholia is the only thing we can concern ourselves with, but even then it is only going to affect these characters.

As the film's title suggests, one of the sister's (maybe both) suffer from depression. Some might argue this films taps into that disorder, but I feel it is much more guilty of giving us scene after scene of meaningless banter leading to diminishing narrative. Even with all the talented actors involved the film never finds its legs and simply limps through the dreary aesthetic.

At the end of the day I suppose we'll label it allegorical. After all, to take "Melancholia" literally would be an insult to the worst of science fiction films. This becomes a sledgehammer Lars von Trier longs to ever so lethargically press upon our consciousness (if you manage to stay awake). How can it be that the actual slow-motions sights found in the overture are the fasting moving moments of the film? On another note, von Trier's exploitative tendencies are present yet again though thankfully brief. This further gives stake to the argument that he loves to make women suffer. I have admired some of his work in the past, but he has certainly taken a toll on me this time around.


CONTENT: language, some sexuality and nudity

Updated 4.28.12


Trentflix said...

Couldn't agree more. I was looking forward to this film because of all of the critical acclaim but I found myself just annoyed and frustrated by the characters irrational behavior. The slow motion fantastical parts are beautiful but the rest is drudgery with little payoff. I read an interview with Lars Von Trier about this film and basically he noticed that people with depression usually act calm in a time of crisis and that thought is what prompted him to make this film. I think he needed a stronger muse than that though. This film just didn't work for me.

Really I just wanted to post something and say keep up the good work. I really enjoy your thoughts and opinions. Whatever happened to that 'Attack the Block' review you promised? I thought it was great fun and nice to see the 'creature flick' stripped down to the very basics.

J.S. Lewis said...

Thanks for reading Trent!

Also, I'm glad you reminded me of "Attack the Block." I will post it soon!