Monday, November 21, 2011

Melancholia has some moments of beauty but is weighed down by Lars Von Trier's self-indulgent direction and screenplay

Melancholia (2 out of  5 stars)
Directed and Written by: Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville)
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Kieffer Southerland

I promised myself I would avoid writing about his comments about Hitler at Cannes, but I guess I lied to myself.  Von Trier stated "What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little bit."  This helps pose the question who is Lars von Trier, and is this statement veiled in his work.  My guess (and I am not defending him) is that von Trier was trying to be edgy/ironic in his comments.  Not the smartest choice of words.  

This situation provides insight into the mind behind this film.  Melancholia starts with the wedding of Justin (Dunst) to Michael (Aleksander Skarsgard).  One of the post awkward weddings is held at Justine's sister Claire (Gainsborough) and her brother in laws mansion.  Dunst appears in love and happy throughout the first five minutes of the film, but this quickly disappears while she goes through the motions of the wedding reception.  Dunst slowly walks away from everything, her job her husband, its almost as if when she sees the planet in the sky that she knows things may come to an end.

In true von Trier style he has two parts to the film, the first is entitled Justine, the second Claire.  This can work in films, but in this film it did not work.  I know I am watching a movie, as a viewer I am attempting to suspend disbelief and become part of the world.  This separation makes things feel more like a play, and stylistically I did not see the purpose. The first part focuses on the wedding while the second part focuses on the title Melancholia the planet that was hidden behind the sun that is on a collision course with earth.

What works well in this film are two things the use of Vagner's Tristen and Isolde as the score to the film.  It's masterful, and fits the film beautifully.  I like that von Trier only showed us one aspect on the end of the world.  Dunst's Justine and Claire do have different perspectives on life, and their viewpoints were interesting to watch through.  I do not understand how Dunst's performance is the performance that is singled out; she plays every character she has played before with a bad and snotty attitude.  Gainsborough is much stronger as Claire.  I believe in the Claire character.  Unlike Justin I understood Claire.  Justine's aloofness never resonates with me.  Kieffer Southerland Jon was also great with his wit wonderful sarcasm.

Films do not need to always explain things, but this movie just lets things happen.  I never felt as though von Trier wanted me to care about the end of the world, and its probably something I should care about.  Sitting through this film felt like sitting through one of those pointless class in college where the teacher attempted to sound smart, but the lecture went know where. When I go to the movies I want to enjoy films, I do not want to have to put up with them or endure.

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