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The film starts with the end of the world, and it goes downhill from there. I think Mark Kermode said that, and it could not be said better: after the apocalyptic overture (just like the whole film drowning a bit in a Tristan und Isolde score), we are thrown into an almost nostalgic “Festen / The Celebration” set-up, wondering whether the elaborate and beautiful opening sequence (as in “Antichrist”) is intended to make the fall into Dogma territory even harsher. I think partly that is the case, only that this wedding sequence where so many open wounds are salted and where a family basically celebrates nothing but its own state of fake existence, is only one of the parts that follow. I liked the weddings sequence (named after Justine, Kirsten Dunst’s character) because it also takes apart one of my own old enemies, wedding planners and their customers. If you believe that a celebration as personal as a wedding needs to be turned into an over-planned military operation, then whatever happens is what you deserve. In this case, you get a depression, a pink slip and no husband, all within a couple of hours.

And then comes part “Claire” (named after Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character, Justine’s sister), in which the world comes to an end. This second part is so different in that it completely ignores the first segment (and I am not yet sure whether I should call this a bold achievement or a mistake) – it takes the story from Justine living with her sister’s family, trying to survive a severe depression. The brother-in-law is annoyed (Kiefer Sutherland, even here with heavy panting and looks across the shoulder, seems he is still looking for terrorists to run away from or towards), Claire’s son sometimes a little frightened by his beloved aunt, and planet Melancholia is closing in. As it does, it stays in the background of the story and the characters’ minds as long as it possibly can (until it drops on their heads, really. Nobody seems to own any form of current news media device expect one computer and a printer), but it allows von Trier to turn around the dynamics of the character interaction: depressed Justine is the calm center, terrified Claire does not know how to deal with her panic, rational Sutherland-guy cannot deal with his science failing.

To be honest, “Melancholia” was a bit painful to watch, and felt as if it went on for some hours too long. However, mostly it did this in a good way, by exposing the characters’ fears and feelings, the vacuous desires and pointless cravings. In this it is a very strong back reference to those painful but brilliant Dogma movies, and a good example for proper movie making about real issues, and about the use of allegories and metaphors in art. This is an art film, with all that comes with the term, and it is a very good one.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/melancholia-2008/

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One Comment

  1. I knew we should have gone to see this film instad of J. Edgar.
    Sometimes the I get over ruled by the other two guys with regards to our selections. I have not seen a Von Trier film yet but my brother said Antichrist was very interesting. I hope I have a chance to see this soon. Nice post!


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