Having lived in Copenhagen for just over four months now, it’s a bit of a cardinal sin that it has taken me so long to get around to LvT’s latest flick. Sure, I could make a whole bunch of excuses – lack of funds, studies, a hatred for anything with Kiefer Sutherland when he isn’t donning this mane – but I guess it mainly comes down to my ‘fear of the Trier’. His films are able to unsettle and stay with me for extended periods of time. Not just working on shock tactics, although often applying them, it’s the gushing emotions behind the performances he is able to unearth that gets my blood boiling and that real staying power once you leave the cinema screen. So what of Melancholia then? Was I overwhelmed by the performances?
No. Can’t say I was. Winning the best Actress Award at Cannes last year (like von Trier’s previous leading ladies Charlotte Gainsbourg and Bjork (for Antichrist and Dancer in the Dark, respectively), much has been said about Kirsten Dunst’s role in the film as Justine. Although a committed performance, it is in the very nature of the character to be unequivocally cold and, well there it is, unsurprisingly melancholy, and for that reason you find her a frustrating presence. If we were going on actor performances alone, Gainsbourg really takes the biscuit here yet again as Justine’s compassionate sister Claire, a yet again difficult character to side with yet Gainsbourg certainly tags us along with her for the apocalyptic ride. Well done, now when’s that new album coming out, Char?
I think that the biggest problem with Melancholia is that is a high-concept movie. It is the end of the world, and there is nothing that Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum can do about it. Ingrained here, it feels like characters are often left unexplored, and the relationships between them even more so.
But all of that simply does not matter, for the Melancholia prologue is the best thing I have ever seen on a cinema screen. Ever. Period. Finito. I might as well call off this whole #366movies thing now as it’s not gonna be topped off by this. I won’t spoil it, but I implore you to experience it on a cinema-sized screen, with great sound. It will blow your face clean off. Same goes for the film’s ending too, which brought me to tears and a film-orgasm. That wasn’t a thing before I typed it, but now I definitely have typed it and it’s definitely a thing.
Melancholia showcases some of von Trier’s most phantasmic/fantastic visions put on to handheld camera, but it certainly isn’t without it’s pitfalls, and does become a little flabby in the second chapter when we are just waiting for this all to come to ungodly end. Literally.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. Just as long as I can see that prologue again please, maybe in the company of Kirsten herself; that’ll do nicely.
PS – If you’ve seen the film, wow – how great does John Hurt look?! Absolute dude.