movie film review | chris tookey


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  Melancholia Review
Tookey's Rating
1 /10
Average Rating
5.94 /10
Kirsten Dunst , Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland
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Directed by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier

Released: 2011
Origin: Denmark
Colour: C
Length: 135

Strictly for pseuds.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The Danish director Lars von Trier has been clinically depressed for the last few years. Melancholia is, if little else, an accurate depiction of that state of mind.

Those who admire it will point to the opening, set to Wagner, which embraces images of death, as an enormous, heavily symbolic planet called Melancholia engulfs the earth. So maybe itís my loss that every image struck me not as gorgeously poetic, but as posed and pretentious, like Vogue magazineís idea of Armageddon.

From there, things get worse. Weíre plunged into a sub-Bunuel wedding, full of humourless social satire, where a bride (Kirsten Dunst, pictured) is overwhelmed by gloom while her bossy sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and money-obsessed husband (Keifer Sutherland) organise the joyless festivities.

Overlong and monotonous, this section of the film is packed with dislikeable characters who respond to the oncoming apocalypse in ways that are inconceivable except on Planet Art-House. It only makes sense as being filtered through the mind of Dunstís character, emotionally dislocated from the futility of her marriage.

Charlotte Rampling (as the sistersí mother) is grumpy, possibly about her shortage of lines, and trudges about like an only slightly more dignified Carlos Tevez. Stellan Starsgaard (as Dunstís boss in advertising) is boorish, the way capitalists always are in the movies.

John Hurt, as father of the two sisters, is happy Ė which weíre invited to think is proof of senescence. Keifer Sutherland is the voice of masculine optimism until he is found dead. It is uncertain whether he has swallowed suicide pills or simply expired from boredom. My guess is that heís seen von Trierís previous films and isnít going to wait for the female characters to come at him with scissors.

This leaves the two sisters to await incineration with Gainsbourgís little boy, a cipher for whom von Trier appears to feel nothing. The only emotions are fear (Gainsbourg) and a kind of sleepwalking resignation (Dunst) that persuaded the jury at Cannes to give Dunst a prize as best Actress, presumably for obeying her director, stripping off and behaving as though heavily sedated throughout.

The piece might have been designed as an antidote to Terrence Malickís equally pompous The Tree of Life, in which the director ordered his characters to submit cheerfully to Godís plan, whatever that was.

Von Trierís defiantly bipolar contention is that there is no divine plan: only a malign fate that mankind thoroughly deserves, possibly for not taking von Trierís previous movies seriously enough.
Melancholia is prettier than his last apocalyptic rant, Antichrist, but suffers from exactly the same sadistic nihilism.

When the end of the world arrives, it is indeed a relief Ė that, at last, after 135 minutes this pretentious, spiritually unattractive piece of grandiose self-indulgence has ground to its resoundingly meaningless conclusion.

Key to Symbols