Melancholia Review

Melancholia, the latest film from the media's favorite Nazi sympathizer (not really) Lars von Trier, opens with a breathtaking slow motion sequence that contains many of the gorgeous promotional photos we have seen thus far.  It's completely engrossing.  The problem is, is that nothing from the rest of the film validates this opening sequence.  Nothing gives it connection to main narrative or reveals a deeper meaning within the scene.  Instead it just seems like a short film that comes before the main feature, completely disconnected.  Therein lies the problem with Melancholia.  The film plays like three different films (the opening sequence, the section titled Justine after Kirsten Dunst's character, and the section titled Claire after Charlotte Gainsbourg's character) that do not relate to each other except that it's about the same characters.

Von Trier deserves much credit for this directorial efforts.  You cannot say this film isn't ambitious.  Ambition is something we deserve from every director but never truly get.  We get it in this film for sure.  The problem is von Trier thinks his film is smarter than it actually is.  He thinks there is some deeper meaning to be found amidst this film.  Unfortunately, there isn't.

The second half of this film (excluding the opening sequence), Claire, is definitely the best of the two halves.  This part follows Claire (Gainsbourg) and her family try to cope with the possibility of another planet hitting Earth.  It is very intense and von Trier completely captures the sense of bleakness and paranoia between the characters.

The only problem with this section actually comes from the first half of the film, entitled Justine.  This part of the film follows Justine (Dunst) on her wedding night.  This section of the film should have given Dunst a lot to work with.  Unfortunately, she is let down by von Trier's writing as all she is given to doe is act depressed for an hour.  It gets annoying fast as von Trier hits us over the head with it to excessiveness (a scene where Dunst's character pees on a gold course is the best example of this).  By the time this section is over, the average viewer will have lost most of their interest in the film and Dunst's character has become un-redeem-able (which hurts the film when she becomes an important player in the second half of the film).

All this section manages to do is make the viewer be able to point out nitpicks in the second half of the film (a good second half of the film at that).  For instance, I took more interest than I should have in a scene involving a search on a computer.  A character searches "Melancholia" and most of the items on the search compute to the condition of Melancholia rather than the planet that is about to his them.  In our media is everything world, such a search would not result in that way in the real world and it comes off as a blatant attempt to reinforce the depressed setting of the film.  I really shouldn't be putting too much focus on such a small thing, but this is what happens when a film wastes its time with such sequences as the first half of this film.

The film does somewhat redeem itself by the ending with an intense scene that is superbly acted (especially by Charlotte Gainsbourg who is the unsung hero of this film).  Unfortunately, ambition is not enough to save this film.


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