Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Rated R for some graphic nudity, sexual content and language
A nihilistic view (look it up) of existence at the end of days. In the new movie from the consummate pessimist, writer/director Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” (a film that should have been titled “Depression Manifested” because this film is more discouraging than when von Trier said that he admired Nazis) is a film that begins with the end of the world. Bleak enough for you? Yes, please tell me more about the story of how everything we do in life is meaningless because inevitably everything will always end badly! Ok, so I’m not all about doom and gloom in life, but this nihilistic aspect did intrigue me at first (because I wanted to see how it was pulled off on the big screen), along with von Trier’s slow motion, hyper artistic opening sequence shots (one scene in particular imitating Millair’s 1852 painting of Ophelia) fused with an overwhelming operatic score. But after a few minutes into “Melancholia” it’s obvious that because of the direction and von Trier’s theme that the story would be drenched in scenes that look like million dollar paintings, but with a plot that leads to nothingness. Von Trier also has a habit of conducting his tales to be as visually unique (or weird) as possible, but with a story that takes forever to get to the point. But remember, when going to see a von Trier film, a general (and at times genius) obscurity is the name of the game. Existential theories will be put out there, but no ultimate questions will be answered (if that makes any sense). And that, in and of itself, will undoubtedly leave many audiences (and yours truly) frustrated with “Melancholia”.
Synopsis: This “story” begins with the wedding of a well to do depressed woman named Justine, which is coinciding with a mysterious planet, aptly named Melancholia, that is threatening to hit earth (or whatever planet von Trier is living on these days). Furthermore, said woman, played by Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man), seemingly has an adverse sexual attraction to the planet Melancholia, as its presence becomes closer. Before we move on, let us define melancholia as a term, because it is not just a boring film, but also“a mental condition marked by persistent depression and ill-founded fears”. So obviously the name of the planet is a metaphor (and I don’t want to give too much away) for Justine’s state of mind.
The Acting: There are oddly enough a great number of actors and actresses in this film that really do nothing, so it is really a wonder why the likes of Alexander Skarsgard, Stellan Skarsgard and John Hurt are in this movie at all. As for Dunst, this may have been a brave role for her to take, well with all of the nudity, but her character (and acting) is so ambiguous that she is very hard to root for throughout the film (but maybe that is the point). Let me not disregard the two actors that shine in this film. Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist), who has been an unappreciated actress in today’s Hollywood since forever, gives the audience maybe the only likeable character of the entire film playing Justine’s sister. And truthfully, this says more about her acting than von Trier’s writing. The more noteworthy performance in this film, mainly because I believed his film career to be long over, was that of Kiefer Sutherland (24) playing the brother in law. He isn’t in this film as much as he should have been, but when he is on screen he outshines every other actor.
Final Thought: This is a philosophical film, not a mainstream movie. This is more of a surrealist piece than Science Fiction film. This is “The Tree of Life”, without the redemption storyline (which is funny because I still believe that “The Tree of Life” is one of the best films to come of 2011, and I here I am ripping a film that showed many similarities to it…interesting). Not to discount the beautiful shot choices and the gripping cinematography, but as I have said for a while when talking about von Trier, in films that are more than two hours long, a film can only go so long without any kind of monumental plot turn and still be considered entertainment. One could say that “Melancholia” is von Trier saying that the world is fascinated (sexually or otherwise) with its own demise, but in the end who cares because the film meanders so much that by the time the huge plot twist hits the audience has tuned out. And maybe it’s just me not understanding the clinical depressive aspect that this film seems to encompass, because for me “Melancholia” is an Odyssey to nowhere! There are tons of pointless plotlines and characters that are so superficial and mean that it is impossible to care about them. So, by the time the ninety minute mark of this film came (when actually the film does become the slightest bit interesting) I was hoping that a planet would hit me, only to knock me out of having to bear witness to any more of this film. I guess it comes down to this: there are aspects of Von Trier’s directing and writing style that are so unappealing and off-putting, that while a conceptual piece like “Melancholia” could have been a film where audiences would have been as interested in watching as they would have been in discussing afterwards, but in von Trier’s hands the film comes off as little more than gorgeous, tedious and dull.