Melancholia – review | Lars von Trier | The Guardian
lars von trier, that great master of the humorous cinema of events, returns with another instrument of torture. is a disaster movie about a huge blue planet called Melancholy – 20 times the size of the earth, but only half the size of the grain of salt you’re going to need – crashing into planet earth. the film is completely ridiculous, often quite boring, with a script that shows worrying signs of being improvised. But even as a long time von Trier skeptic, I now have to admit that it grows on you; There’s a cloying fascination and some flashes of true visual brilliance, especially in the eerie series of dreamlike tableaus that begin the film, which draw from both Millais’s Ophelia and Resnais’s final year in Marienbad.
I can never sit down to a new von trier film without thinking of czech dream, a cheeky work from 2004, which was a factual record of two young czech filmmakers’ anti-capitalist stunt. they took out advertisements for a new, non-existent supermarket and set up a completely flat fake window in the middle of an empty meadow. on the so-called “opening day”, thousands of bargain hunters galloped across the countryside towards it and the directors filmed their reactions when these poor suckers realized there was nothing behind the piece of painted plywood.
Each time, millions of arthouse fans are frantically scrambling for the latest new idea von trier has created. a movie about slavery, maybe, or a movie about a girl being hanged or one about people pretending to have cerebral palsy. and when we get closer, we find… well, what? For me, the contents are somehow less important than the ending, and I really think von Trier has something of a Situationist genius to make the audience’s discomfort part of the show itself. In a way, the inevitable and unnerving descent is a major final blow on the von Trier rollercoaster ride.
melancholia is billed as a “beautiful movie about the end of the world”: both the description and the movie itself are as intriguing and infuriating as anything else I’ve done. At his press conference in Cannes, in response to a question about German Romanticism and the film’s use of Wagner, the bright-eyed von Trier said he sympathized with Hitler, then retracted the comment, and has now retracted the retraction. : None of these comments are more serious or less serious than the action of the film itself. anarchic advertising is part of the effect.
kirsten dunst stars as justine, a troubled young woman getting married, and charlotte gainsbourg as her sister claire, whose swaggering millionaire husband, played by kiefer sutherland, has paid for a large and expensive wedding reception at a lavish home field. hotel. there’s a nice cameo from udo kier as the queeny wedding planner. But Dunst’s perfect day is marred by emotional tensions, most notably between her estranged parents, played formidable but all too briefly by Charlotte Ramplaling and John Hurt, and these tensions catastrophically trigger Justine’s own tendency toward depression or depression. even melancholy. Perhaps the marriage was, in Shakespearean terms, “unlucky,” and they, like the rest of humanity, are affected by the gigantic planet supposedly on an imminent collision course with Earth. It’s Claire, supposedly the quiet one, who succumbs to hyperventilating panic; For depressed Justine, the apocalypse is ecstatic relief.
The entire wedding scene, effectively the film’s second act, looks suspiciously like something von trier might well have sketched out long ago, inspired by thomas vinterberg’s festen, and crammed in here to add volume. the movie. the third act is the end of the world itself: a dazed, dreamy, weird event that’s brilliant in its absurd way, though it’s strange that no one finds it necessary to turn on the TV news. the best thing about the film is the brief opening act: a strange and hallucinatory montage of moonlit or melancholy images, which are an exposition of themes and a distorted premonition of the narrative: they are an echo of some of the more disturbing von trier. antichrist.
dunst’s performance has been much admired and, in fact, he won an award at cannes. His descent into a near-zombie catatonic depression is forceful and very sincere, but it’s impossible not to remember that the stunned, glassy-eyed look is something von Trier has gotten from other leading ladies, including Björk and Nicole Kidman: a Meg-Ryan look. in parky for my money, gainsbourg offers a much more interesting performance.
melancholia is an absurd film in many ways, and yet it would be obtuse not to acknowledge those flashes of visual inspiration. when justine goes out into the field to look at the stunning blue planet and then takes off her clothes to bathe in her light, that’s really powerfully erotic and weird. In a way, for all his goofiness and shyness, this is the happiest experience I’ve had with von Trier in a long time.