Monday, January 9, 2012


Kirsten Dunst in Lars Von Trier's Melancholia

** out of ****

It's hard to see a movie that has a lasting effect and call it bad. It's unusual for any movie to have that kind of power over me at all. Melancholia is, no doubt, very strong and gorgeously executed. Lars Von Trier is a director who can upset his audience. What separates his good work from bad, is complicated. Maybe it has to do with how meaningful the film feels to the viewer.

Whether his work is good or not, I feel as though this is an artist venting his misery to distract himself from suicide. He usually creates characters in a situation that is hopeless and gets you interested in them. It's as if he sees beauty in sadness and maybe, you the viewer, might hope for triumph. But he is just going to take the movie further in to hell.

His last film, Antichrist, hypnotically seduced me into the sad, yet empathetic world of it's two characters and then released it's horror. For that, I thought it was excellent.

Melancholia is just as morbid, if not more, but I felt a great distance from everyone in it. This is Kirsten Dunst's greatest performance that I've seen. That performance is still alienating  because it embodies true inescapable depression, which even inescapably depressed people don't want to think about. Von Trier surrounds us with the beauty of a dream wedding. It's luxurious and tasteful. He seems to want to share a pain that comes with depression: Even being surrounded by true bliss is no consolation.  He's created a dark nightmare world where everything is beautiful but no one is good except for a child who Dunst's character constantly turns to for her only faint sense of security. 

The other problem I had is that this film is in two acts which both feel like very different films. The first is the wedding party I described. The Second shifts to the point of view of her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) after the wedding. The plot shifts to be about a planet called Melancholia which is coming towards earth and the sister fears it will collide with us. This part of the plot was only conveyed in a surreal prologue to the movie and had no exposition during the wedding party. I don't know if this is to suggest that the last part of the movie is something of a dream or not. I just know that during the last part of the film, the depression and despair are stretched out to an unnecessarily tedious level.

In the end, I suppose this movie subscribes to an attitude that laughs at human beings attempts to be good and welcomes apocalypse.

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