Lars Von Trier, I Want to Like You So Bad.
But you are really making it difficult.
I watched Melancholia this weekend, a film about a rogue planet crashing into the earth and the relationship between two sisters in the final days of the earth’s existence. I should preface all of this with the fact that I’m a complete art-snob, but most of you already know that. So here we go.
Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is horribly depressed, debilitatingly so, and is marrying Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) in what can only be described as the world’s longest wedding in the history of mankind. Her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), is also kind of mess psychologically and plays a strong maternal role to Justine. All the while, a planet is heading towards earth for a “fly-by” but in actuality will destroy the planet. There’s a kid and some horses and that guy from Ace Ventura and that guy from the Lost Boys, as well. I’m not giving anything away here, its all in the preview.
The movie has moments of very profound beauty, intense and heartfelt emotional scenes, gorgeous scenery, a completely out-of-touch upper-crust world-view, wonderful use of slow motion (and I mean sloooooooooooow motion), great music, and two main characters that are so absolutely hateable that if you were stuck on the side of a mountain with them, they’d be the first ones you’d eat. If I was stuck in an elevator with them for more than 15 minutes and I was hungry, I’m afraid it would be the end of them both.
Herein lies everything that is wrong with Melancholia, and, while we’re at it, Anti-Christ. Lars von Trier makes poignant, interesting, fantastically eye-pleasing movies with thoughtful plots and subplots, and then populates them with people you end up hating so much by the end of the film that you couldn’t care less if they lived or died. (I was rooting for death, actually.) While the movie deals with depression on a macro scale and the very real nature of the disease, von Trier reduces his characters to one-dimensonal shadows so consumed and self absorbed that you no longer feel sympathy for them. This really kills it for me, as I know that while that sort of sadness can be all-consuming, it cheapens both the affliction and those that suffer from it when a person is distilled to his or her worst moments. This is the equivalent of having an amazing dinner prepared by incredible chefs and then describing it only by the dirtiness of the kitchen afterwards.
The movie is 17 hours long and shot on a Kodak flip camera by people going over cobblestones on roller skates. If you read my review of The Hunger Games, you know that I’m so over this documentary-style jiggle-cam thing that everyone is into right now. Regardless of how beautiful a movie is, how excellent the shots are set up, all that camera swing-around just hurts my feelings. That being said, its pretty gorgeous when you’re not getting barfy. The first 8 minutes or so are actually brilliant. It tells the story backwards with VERY slowed down scenes from the end of the movie that look as if Gregory Crewdson arranged them himself. (Gregory Crewdson is my Co-Pilot.)
You should just watch this clip for 90 minutes on a loop and save yourself a world of pain, as it is head and shoulders better than the rest of the movie, tells the entire story in a far more lyrical/symbolic manner, and is infinitely more enjoyable than watching these two over-privileged rich kids mope around a castle on a lake.
If you Google Lars Von Trier you’ll find that many think he’s the second coming of Christ. I’m not there yet, but I will say his ideas are pretty great. His aesthetics are top-notch (blurry-cam, not so much) but I can’t get over the obstacle of his development of characters that I’d like to murder with my bare hands. One reviewer said “No one will ever accuse Lars von Trier of being short on balls,” which may be the best thing I’ve ever read about him. This is a pretty big compliment in the grand scheme of movies where we are constantly being spoon-fed watered down plots with ultra-safe endings catering to the widest swath of movie-goers possible with the end goal of licensing the characters on a lunch box.
Have an LVT movie suggestion? Think I’m dumb as a rock? Wanna hear more about my obsession with Gregory Crewdson? Tell me below!
(I may be taking a break Monday as I’ll be completely in the weeds with work. But I will miss you all dearly and will see you on Wednesday.)