A review of Melancholia, A von Trier film

I started tweeting a review of Melancholia, but quickly it became obvious it deserved considerable thought, then proper blogging.

Admittedly I had reservations, having watched the trailers, but I wanted to give this a go. It won stuff at Cannes. I wanted to be stunned by the ultra high speed film replayed at twenty-four frames per second. I wanted to be immersed in beautiful cinematography. I wanted to be wooed by Lars von Trier’s intoxicating fantasies.

Some people may have the stamina and lack of imagination to last two hours and ten minutes of indulgent tedium. I do not. I expect most people don’t. It’s the filmic equivalent of watching frozen molasses drip from a spoon while slowly overdosing on Mogadon – you are sure something will happen eventually, but boredom inevitably sets in before you can remember why you were watching, or bother to care what that something is. Meanwhile, did I leave the iron on? The airconditioning is louder than usual. I really ought to have that mole checked out.

To anyone who managed to sit this steaming pile out, I admire you. I really do. You indeed have the tenacity of a leech that uses superglue for assistance. Your hobbies are fascinating– everyone should indulge in the cheap thrill of observing ice thaw.

This film ought only to be shown during assisted suicides, to ensure patients don’t change their minds. The premise, thick and rich like water vapour, is that Earth will be destroyed by a planet which somehow manages to dislodge itself from an orbit somewhere near Antares, a red super giant star some 600 light years away. Come on. This mysterious planet was able to dodge all collisions except the impending one with Earth, despite acting like an epileptic drunkard on skates whilst traveling the 600 light years in the time it takes to say “Kirsten Dunst’s breasts are surprisingly small once she takes that wedding dress off.” It couldn’t have hid behind the sun like a cat behind a sofa preying on a mechanical mouse, either. Based on von Trier logic, it could have Skyped us first and told us to put the kettle on. This should be enough to alert you to the extreme nonsense that binds the incredibly threadbare plot. This film requires more than a suspension of disbelief. It requires a cognitive dissidence several orders of magnitude greater than the combined total cognitive dissidence of the Young Earth and Literal Bible movements.

If this film was about being calm in the face of impending doom then the zen didn’t rub off. It stuck doggedly to the impossibly wandering planet like sea gull guano on a rock. The tiny, tiny amount of satisfaction knowing they all die at the end is crushed by the infinite tedium of the unbearable journey.

There is a scene that I thought made real time go backwards. The first act when Justine (Dunst) urinates on a golf course in her wedding dress. As interesting as that may sound, incredibly it isn’t. The scene of her copulating with her boss’s nephew in a sand trap ought to be exciting, but somehow von Trier manages to erase every microgram of spirit from this scene, rendering it with all the eroticism of pollination. Given the title, it may be appropriate or deliberate, except it was like watching a paper bag get run over by a truck. For a moment I secretly wished that paper bag was that horrible neighbour’s hideous cat. I wanted to elicit some joy from the scene, no matter how dark, yet it was more elusive than Pol Pot’s mercy.

Apparently Dunst is earning praise for her role. I’m not sure how; she exuded all the character and personality of a coffee table. From Ikea. Still flat packed. And this after wanting to like her performance and react with her character. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference, and that’s exactly how I feel about her performance (that I saw. I walked out, remember?)

Kiefer Sutherland appeared to be wanting to be needed elsewhere. I don’t blame him for that want. Shortly after walking out I felt that I’d have more fun at my mother’s unexpected funeral than watch these interminably insufferable people on screen. Or perhaps being at a party where I don’t really know anyone, just enough to know I don’t particularly like them, then watch as they predictably demonstrate how perfectly they fit their assigned stereotypes with their obnoxious vapidity. Sutherland didn’t disappoint, which is disappointing.

You may have watched Alexander Skarsgård in True Blood or Generation Kill. I enjoyed his performance in the latter. The end. Well, not quite. As the abandoned husband, Michael should have been a little likable, even pitied. A performance flatter than that Ikea coffe table flat pack box.

Then there is Charlotte Rampling. She played Justine’s overbearing, dominating, unloving mother, Gabby. Surely she should be despised? No. She’s like that objectionable bag lady that yells profanities at random objects, and somehow we adore her for that until she’s out of sight upon which we immediately forget she ever existed.

Last, and least is Charlotte Gainsbourg as Justine’s sister Claire. I know this because I bothered to look it up on Wikipedia. Somehow when Claire looks up “Melancholia” she arrives at a website dedicated to the wayward planet of doom. For God’s sake, people, donate to Wikipedia before we discover that this film is a metaphor for Occupy Wall Street, or, worse, it isn’t a metaphor for anything; that it was entirely inspired by the inappropriately etherial advertisement of Homer Simpson’s Mr Plow.

The rest? I’m so indifferent to them I have forgotten who they were. They either wore a dinner suit or an evening gown. Possibly both, as that fact would be easy to miss in the ferocious pace of this delightful, upbeat romantic comedy.

Don’t tell me how it really ends. If I should be unfortunate enough to find out even one of these miserable sods survive, I shall have to publicly hang the audience during the screening of Melancholia’s sequel before shooting myself. Before seeing this film I had successfully deceived myself into thinking that considering all the terrible things, this hasn’t been a bad year. Thanks Lars, you Nazi loving misanthropist, for ruining this year for everyone.

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One response to “A review of Melancholia, A von Trier film

  1. wreckofyousteve

    The most perfect movie review I have ever read.

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