Von Trier’s “Melancholia” as a film about love
What do you think about it?
Just watched it. This and The Tree of Life would make a great double bill.
I want to see it, I like Dunst!
its fantastic go see it, its not as depressing as von triers other films plus dunst gives an exceptional performance and the film is just plain beautiful
Thank you, Shaun Morrison, I’ll see it!
no problem el beso
It’s his best film (after Riget, but that doesn’t count as a feature film)
I really wasn’t feeling the first half at all aside from the forst 10 minutes. The second half was good, Charlotte Gainsbourg continues to impress.
Didn’t like it. The acting was pretty good though. Second half felt kinda rushed.
What a great film. Now that this film has been released theatrically and has been available on demand for awhile, what do people think of Melancholia?
It’s so easy to hate on von Trier but I found this film to be absolutely sublime. A.O. Scott nails it in his review:
“Total obliteration happens on an intimate scale, and the all-encompassing, metaphysical nature of the drama leaves room for gentleness as well as operatic cruelty. The machinery of mass panic and media frenzy that juices up most films on this subject is notably absent. Instead, difficult emotions are registered in close-ups of individual human faces, and a perverse, persuasive idea rises to the surface. The end of the world as we know it might just turn out to be beautiful.”
Came out a while ago in the UK, wonder why it was out here a little while before USA…
A fantastic film in many respects, though the wedding itself drags on far too long in my opinion and is by far its biggest fault. However once it kicks in, it really kicks in. The ending has gotten some stick too, but I felt it was fantastic, I loved how it felt and looked.
Three key images really stick out for me in the film. Firstly, the ending. Secondly, the moment where we have the Moon and Melancholia lighting up the night sky with their own special glows. And finally, a crumpled Justine (Dunst) who cant even carry herself to take a bath.
The way it shows depression at its very worst is spot on in my opinion. I enjoyed watching how Justine became more accepting, even welcoming of the end of the world, while Clair (Gainsbourg) became more desperate. When someone is at the very bottom, what better way is there to end it all then with a giant planet smashing into you? Clearly Justine (and maybe even Von Trier himself) doesnt seem to think there is a better way.
The only person with the guts to accept the inevitable was Justine, while someone like John (Sutherland) despite all his talk and confidence, would rather avoid the inevitable and take the (maybe) cowards way out. Is it really Justin with her chronic depression that is crazy, or is it the other?
I agree that the wedding stuff went on a bit too long. However I will say von Trier assembled a rockin’ cast and thoroughly enjoyed Udo Kier, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling, Stellan Skarsgard, and Jesper Christensen chewing up the scenery.
And yes, in the end it seems like Justine was the only one who accepted the inevitable. Regarding John, do you think his cowardly act came out of nowhere? A couple friends of mine thought it seemed completely out of place and uncharacteristic. For me, it didn’t. He seemed selfish for the whole movie and also hid a lot of how he truly felt (especially regarding his concern that the planet might indeed hit). So when he kills himself, it made sense because we only saw him through Justine (Part 1) and Claire’s (Part 2) perspective.
Is this a film you’d recommend to someone who generally does not like Von Trier?
(Although I enjoy Riget and Dancer in the Dark and find a few of his other films interesting.)
How many women get tortured?
It’s hard to say. If Antichrist is his most offensive, his most polarizing, Meloncholia is much more toned down. A.O. Scott summed it up nicely in his review:
“Unlike other von Trier victim-heroines — including those played by Emily Watson in “Breaking the Waves”; Nicole Kidman in “Dogville”; and Bjork in “Dancer in the Dark” — Justine is not assailed and humiliated by other people. The element of male aggression that was such a powerful force in those films, and an integral aspect of Mr. von Trier’s creative personality, has been neutralized here.”
So I don’t think this is a movie that will get von Trier haters up in arms the way some of his other films do. Although I’m not sure it will convert anyone either.
Wait, no women get tortured?
…And Von Trier directed this film? He didn’t produce it or something?
Did the studio steal the negative and cut out all the torture scenes, like a Magnificent Ambersons situation or something?
hahaha – after Antichrist, Lars wanted a break.
But if it’s any consolation, Dunst is severely depressed, which can be torturous.
Santino – I did not feel that John killing himself was out of place. He put his total faith in science, and it failed him. This could be compared to someone putting total faith in God, only to find out that God does not exist. I think in either situation, suicide would not be out of place at all. This seemingly made such an impact on him that he could not bare living.
Just for note, about non-von Trier fans liking it. Out of the 5 films of his I’ve seen (The Idiots, Dogville, Manderlay, Antichrist and Melancholia) I would rank it about on par with Antichrist, perhaps just below it, and above Manderlay. A fantastic film, but not his best. I’ve enjoyed all those films very very much, barring Manderlay which I felt was ok but dragged on too long.
CELERYFC – I agree with you about John. His suicide definitely didn’t seem out of place and I like your assessment about him losing his faith. I imagine that once he realized that science had failed him, he couldn’t live.
And I also agree that Melancholia isn’t von Trier’s best, although this is coming from someone who loves von Trier.
Just saw this last night; question for you guys – do you believe that Justine was legitimately happy by the end of the film/by the time she died or was she merely accepting of it?
I wouldnt say she is happy, but maybe acceptance felt better than the fear of death others felt. I guess in many ways she was dead anyway, at least inside. What difference would it make if her physical being was also dead?
Yeah, I’m with Celery. I don’t know if Justine was happy. I think she was just accepting of it. I mean, it reiterated or confirmed her depression but I didn’t get the sense that she felt satisfied by it. There was no “I told you so” behavior from her.
Thanks – I’d agree. The friend I saw it with read the ending/her character a little differently than I did, so I was just curious to hear some other thoughts.
What did you think of the film in general? Did you like it? Do you like von Trier’s other films? How does it compare to his other work.
Overall, yeah I definitely liked it. Like many other people have said, I think the first half dragged at times, but I also feel it was necessary in depicting Justine’s depressed state (something I think von Trier/Dunst captured very well). I mentioned on the film’s profile that I really liked von Trier’s style of cutting/editing juxtaposed with the surrealism/beauty/horror of Melancholia – this made the situation more believable for me. Just thinking about how it was a red speck in the beginning of the film and obviously by the end it’s this looming, hypnotizing force; the blue hue that was cast over the characters during the second half – I found all of that very effective, aesthetically. I thought Gainsbourg was pretty great and I enjoyed her character’s chapter more so than Justine’s.
That said, I felt there was a lot left unexplored. I think if the realization that Melancholia was headed toward Earth had come sooner, it would’ve given the characters more time to react to the situation and I would’ve liked to see that. The scene where Justine is telling Claire that “the world is evil,” etc. I thought was underwhelming and not particularly well written – they didn’t have many moments together that were impactful to me (after discovering Melancholia was going to hit Earth).
I’m not a fan of Lars von Trier really. I think Breaking the Waves is his best film (out of what I’ve seen). I didn’t like Antichrist, despite it having gorgeous and effective cinematography and great acting – I remember thinking it was muddled and laughable at times. Dogville I thought was really interesting (one I need to revisit). The Boss of it All was surprisingly light and enjoyable, but forgettable. Dancer in the Dark was well-crafted and unique but I didn’t really care for it as I felt like I was just watching Bjork get tortured for 2+ hours.
So Melancholia for me probably lies somewhere in the middle – well, it might actually be my second favorite (behind Breaking the Waves). Lars von Trier is talented, unquestionably and good at creating a mood and arresting visuals but I don’t know that he has a lot to say. Or maybe he just doesn’t “click” with me like some filmmakers.
“I mentioned on the film’s profile that I really liked von Trier’s style of cutting/editing juxtaposed with the surrealism/beauty/horror of Melancholia”
Yes! I thought this film was a perfect blending of von Trier’s Dogme 95 styel with his more formal elegence that that he showed in films like Antichrist. What a great contrast for this subject matter.
Melancholia opens and closes with such a dazzling visual feast, despite blatant nods to Andrei Tarkovsky (the slow-motion falling horse from ‘Andrei Rublev’ and “The Hunters in the Snow” painting referenced in ‘Stalker’) that almost discards these scenes’ originality. Perhaps the film as a whole is Lars von Trier’s underlying closure with his own battle with depression, linking it to the end of the world. His approach involves plunging Justine’s character into basic, irrationally animalistic behavior, portraying that she’s the first one ready to face the end. However, I feel he interrupts this flow by separating the film into two separate parts, with part two centering on her sister, Claire. Just as I was gaining some kind of emotional magnetism to Justine’s animalistic breakdown, it’s almost as if the rug was pulled and she was sort of neglected the entire second half of the film. Had both girls’ perspectives been overlapped or integrated through-out the film, then I think I would’ve been more emotionally impacted by the entire film aside from just the beautifully-shot beginning and end. The beginning and end are another issue – I completely loved how Antichrist integrated the slow-motion, 500 fps shots of surrealism and slow-molding facial expression through-out the film to suspensefully unfold a demonic nightmare. I feel Melancholia could’ve integrated these scenes within the film to tap more into Justine’s depressed psyche, as these gorgeous scenes could’ve acted as sort of a premonition tool, rather than just a prologue, and Melancholia would’ve developed in a more appropriately dystopian sense. Ultimately, this could be von Trier’s most personal film yet, and I feel the strange, stupor-ridden oblivion of his characters during a time of panic was realistically handled.
I don’t think ’Justine’s animalistic breakdown’ is a good description of the first half.
In the first half of the film, first we see what appears to be a charming scene of a man and his new wife struggling to get a stretch limo through a narrow road, but really that scene has layers of irony. First, we find that Justine was really faking her happiness in order to rise to others’ expectations. Second, we realize the stretch limo is a symbol of the pointless excess of wealth.
This pointless excess grates and grates on Justine. She’s putting on an act, dealing with everybody’s attitude that showering her with wealth entitles them to her spiritual conformity, because according to the ‘normal people’ who surround her, wealth is what makes a person happy. The only thing she seems genuinely excited about is ‘Cave building’ with her nephew, but she keeps being pulled away from that by the demands of her wedding. She’s doing her best to play the part of the happy rich wife, grating on everybody when she betrays her indifference. They think, ‘We gave you everything that should be important to you, why aren’t you happy?!"
In the second half, everybody secretly feels the planet is going to destroy Earth. They’re secretly just as sure of it as Justine, but they deny it to their fullest capability, because how could rich happy people like us be so powerless? When they finally break down and realize there’s no escaping their fate, Claire suggests “Let’s sit on our terrace and drink wine.” Justine says “Fuck that”, because as she felt all along, the symbols of wealth have no real importance. So what does she do? The one thing she really valued all along: Playing with her nephew.
A nearly perfect film, very continuous with Antichrist but outclassing it at every turn. The moment when Claire’s running through a fairway and it starts hailing had me choking up like almost nothing I’ve seen. It’s a movie so in touch with the world at this point that Tree of Life almost seems like a well-wishing artifact from another time, another set of possibilities for our relation to the world.