October 25, 2011

Melancholia (Denmark 2011)

"Melancholy is not negative, it is a positive feeling. It's not about depression. It's a feeling of longing." - Ville Valo

If Lars von Trier's verbal derailments in Cannes would have been part of a publicity campaign, it would have been a brilliant one. A new Lars von Trier film is already an event that the whole film world is awaiting about but now it has become a film that the whole world is talking about. But nevertheless it still proves a difficult film to market since it can not be easily categorized due to its status as an "Arthouse blockbuster" somewhere between "Festen" and "Armageddon".

Kirsten Dunst's character in the film works in advertising and has to come up with a tagline in the course of the film. Which somehow seems ironic since there has rarely been a tagline that better described a film than the one for "Melancholia" which is simply called "a beautiful movie about the end of the world". This absolutely gets to the point because "Melancholia" is - like the word itself - above all beautiful, gorgeous, mesmerizing. Its excessive stylization is a million miles away from the unfiltered purity of the Dogma 95 films. The first part of the film may still recall "Festen" but instead of the shaky handheld video camera we now get gracefully composed shots set to the music of Wagner. No wonder that even Lars von Trier complains that the film has turned out too beautiful. Apparently he didn't control his cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro enough because of his own depression during the shooting of the film.

But what could be even less expected than the visual feast from a) Lars von Trier and b) a pessimistic film about depression and the apocalypse is how enjoyable the film is in its own kind of way. Which is also the film's main problem because it can not really taken seriously. Beneath all the splendor there is surprisingly little substance left. Even the great cast, above all Kirsten Dunst in her best performance ever, can only add a certain depth to what is, if judged objectively, a rather ridiculous movie.

But cinema is not mathematics, it is about emotions rather than sense. "Melancholia" may be mostly another ego project from Lars von Trier and his ultimate guilty pleasure but it is nevertheless an enormously cinematic experience. 



Sadness is a blessing: Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg

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