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rochefort [Film Festival 10.07.11] post apocalyptic movie review drama

Year: 2010
Directors: Lars von Trier
Writers: Lars von Trier
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 8 out of 10

Director Lars Von Trier has become a brand. He's the 21st century auteur redux, the director as rock star, like him or not. Notice the way his name appears in the opening credits (above the title, no less) in each of his movies, just like the cover of an album. Or the controversy he courts pretty much every time he opens his mouth; you know, like Marilyn Manson or Madonna. And I suppose this is all fair and fun if you're interested in the ins and outs of modern self-hype, but when I sit down in a darkened theater I personally don't care about the personalities surrounding a movie's making; I care about the movie itself, and if it plays, it stays. "Melancholia" plays. It plays so well, in fact, that it only took about twenty minutes of its runtime before I stopped caring about anything other than the fact that I was watching a really good movie. Funny how things come back to the basics, ain't it?

When we first meet Justine (Kirsten Dunst), she's sitting next to her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) in a limo stuck in the mud on the way to their wedding reception. It's a deceptively playful scene, and you wouldn't think from these first few minutes, which quickly establish both characters as believable and likable, that you were about to watch the most dysfunctional reception ever. But Justine suffers from a debilitating form of depression that threatens to end her marriage before it's barely gotten started. Her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is the only member of her family who sticks with her through the good times and the bad, but Justine's sabotage of this "most special night" tests their relationship to an extreme that plays extremely real, and is sometimes close to unbearable.

But then a spectacular event occurs and shifts everyone's perspective on everything. A rogue planet, Melancholia, has emerged from its hiding place behind the sun and is scheduled to pass extremely close to the earth. Or through it, depending on which scientists you believe. Justine and Claire, along with Claire's husband John (Kiefer Sutherland, in his best role in a long, long time), cluster up at John's sprawling country home to ride out the cosmic phenomenon. John assures his family that Melancholia will pass without incident and everything will be fine. Justine, whose depression seems to dissipate more and more the closer the planet gets, believes otherwise.

Von Trier has routinely vacillated between the brilliant and the maddeningly obtuse from one film to the next, and the only predictable aspect of his output to date has been that he does things his way, for better or worse. But now the brain trust at Cannes has decided to turn him into a pariah, which strikes me as more than a little hypocritical, considering they've so regularly applauded the distinctness of his voice and vision. His recent pronouncement, post-Cannes debacle, that he'll no longer grant interviews or speak publicly works just fine for me, since now his films will do all the talking. And "Melancholia" does kinda maul the enduring sense that humanity will prevail over all obstacles, so I guess it's possible to see how a few ill-conceived comments about identification with Hitler, while doing press for a movie that argues the universe would be better off without Earth, well… I suppose you could deduce that this guy could be a slight ideological menace.

Ultimately, though, it would be a shame if the reception for what is possibly his best film to date were to be overshadowed by all this recent hubbub, but I any press is good press, right? The irony is that a wider audience may now seek out the film to satisfy a certain morbid curiosity. There are equal parts elegance and nihilism on display here, so it's tough to tell how the court of public opinion will finally rule, but I personally appreciated the complex characters, challenging subtext and, yes, the sheer audacity. "Melancholia" is definitely a can't-miss experience for any film lover, one of those movies that sticks with you for a long time, its impact deeply enough felt that maybe all the controversy makes a kind of weird sense after all.

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ASpaceOdissey (11 years ago) Reply

I'm sorry but I strongly disagree.. in my opinion the script was really poor and the first part of the movie was awfully slow without no interesting dialogues or whatever. I'm a huge fan of von trier but this movie was a disappointment. He use the painting of Brugel (solaris) and the scene of the falling horse (Andrej Rublev) in the beginning as an homage to Tarkovsky I suppose, he even dedicate the antichrist to him. Well he should have learn something more from the master...


j.j. (11 years ago) Reply

" but I any press is good press, right?"



rochefort (11 years ago) Reply

hey j.j., it was a typo. was supposed to just read "but any press is good press". sorry 'bout that.


timefelt (11 years ago) Reply

beautiful, lovely, rapturous; What makes this a work of art is that it resonates larger than just another film. There is a great sense of so much more occurring outside the frame...It carries the viewer with it...


papaswamp (11 years ago) Reply

"maddeningly obtuse" was most of the movie for me…perhaps disjointed. I know people like to say how deep it was, etc. etc., but it wasn't for me.…If I'm thinking most of the movie WTF is going on…then it's a miss.


Cletus (11 years ago) Reply

The film didn't work for me. It lacked originality and I couldn't find a reason to care for any of the characters. Maybe it's because I'm not a big fan of nihilism. I mean, I could give a folk that the universe won't miss us when we're gone. Life is what it is and what you make of it. The characters in Melancholia hadn't achieved much and didn't truly care about each other, so meh. If that was the point of the movie, then it's a triumph.


(11 years ago) Reply

You're an idiot. This movie was dogshit, explain to me why I would rather have spent two hours watching this than getting hit by said planet.


(11 years ago) Reply

Totally agree. This movie was a waste of two hours of my life. Horrible. Worst movie I have ever seen.


EarthsSurvivor (11 years ago) Reply

Thanks for the review fellow commentators; your views confirmed my opinions and I won't watch this film. I use to be a fan of Von Trier - but then I grew up. I'm most dissatisfied with the fact that being outspoken, daring in the controversial aspect is considered cool in today's society. That's all this director is. Just look at all his main films. They are sick and twisted. In today's society sick and twisted now equals art, it's considered to be deep and intelligent. Which is even more disturbing! Where does one cross the line if anything and everything that is sick and twists considered as art?

Von Trier fans are all pseudo-intellectual hipsters.


(10 years ago) Reply

Hipsters? All of them? That is rather depressing thinking.

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