Melancholia (2011) – 4/5

Odd, disjointed, and full of strange, beautiful imagery that’ll make you go “ooh” and “ahh” and, occasionally, “huh?”  But this is a Lars Von Trier movie so those kinds of reactions are to be expected. What isn’t expected is how relatively straightforward and not extremely bizarre the film is, especially when compared to his previous film “Anti-Christ” which gave entirely new meaning to the concept of bizarre, non-linear story telling.

Most of this actually makes sense, sort of, and yet still manages to be pretty damn metaphorical, and just plain beautiful, especially at the end. Granted the first half is somewhat meaningless and, at times, too long, especially since its purpose, that is, **SPOILERS** to establish Kirsten Dunst’s character as suffering from some serious emotional issues, **END SPOILERS** is revealed within the first 20 minutes, but it’s interesting to watch at least. There’s just not much happening, and you never really get a sense of why Dunst’s character is doing what she’s doing, or how she’s managed to get to where she is in life given her crippling condition. Eh. She does look absolutely stunning throughout though. Who knew?

The second half is better, as the sense of foreboding merely hinted at in the first half is finally played out for all that it’s worth. And I loved Keifer Sutherland here as the rich brother-in-law. He’s hilarious without meaning to be, and seems to bring some much-needed energy to the film whenever it starts to sag under the weight of its own depression. Oh, and the woman who plays Dunst’s mother is really good too, though she’s only on-screen for about a minute or two.

The overall metaphor was a bit disappointing, ultimately. I get that it has to do with the weight of depression and how it could destroy people’s lives if left unchecked, the giant Earth-bound planet being a not so subtle physical manifestation of said depression, it just struck me as being relatively shallow, especially after the brilliant metaphors on the human condition and clever plays on Christian mythology found in “Anti-Christ,” a film that isn’t nearly as accessible as this. I was hoping for something deeper from Von Trier, something beyond the obvious. And maybe there was more and I just missed it, but if I did, he did a really good job hiding it from me. And I’m usually good at spotting stuff like this, especially in his work. What gives, Von Trier? You pulling a fast one on me, or are you just getting lazy?

So, yeah, a good film, one I enjoyed, just not on the same “intellectual” level I had hoped for from him. Still, it’s definitely worth watching if you’re into this kind of stuff, that is, depressing emotional films about the end of the world and depression and misery and all that good stuff. And the second half is pretty suspenseful, and kind of cool, especially the very end. Worth watching.

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  1. Nice review! Kirsten’s mother was played by one-time supermodel Charlottte Rampling. Google her and be amazed at her beauty! She was also one of Helmut Newton’ s muses. I actually really loved “Melancholia” and want to etch it again to catch more of the subtleties. Also want to check out Lars’ interview at Cannes where he completely messed up by telling the interviewer that he could understand where Hitler was coming from. Much to Kirsten’s dismay. Good work, Allen!

    • Ha ha, hey Merrilyn, thanks for reading my review! And glad to hear you finally caught the film. I liked the mother; she exuded this extreme sense of arrogance and superiority that I wished would have been explored more in the film. I get the feeling that maybe she didn’t get more screen time because the role wasn’t really meant to be anything special, and was only made so because of her great acting. But who knows what madness lurks within Von Trier’s mind.

      And Von Trier always says something ridiculous when promoting one of his films. I think he does it for all the attention it brings him, and it works. He’s stated many times that he doesn’t much care for political correctness, and that’s something he should be admired for, especially in this day and age.

      Thanks again.

  2. Dunst was very good in this role but her character was just a little mopey for my liking. However, von Trier keeps his artistic vision in-tact and although there are moments of boredom, it still all comes together so well in the last 40 minutes. Great review. Check out my review when you get the chance.

    • I agree with you completely. The film works best when looked at as a whole, rather than on a scene by scene basis, where it occasionally stumbles. And a good review to you as well; you have so many more readers than I do. How do you do it?

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