It’s taken till the 10th month of the year for me to have found a film that was special. And I’m very suprised at it…
[plot spoiler alert]
I did not expect a film by Lars Von Triers with a title that means ‘misery’ to make me feel good, let alone laugh. Having been harrowed by Bjork’s prolonged hysteria at being hanged in Dancer in the Dark, and having read of the frenzied, bizarre tale of Antichrist that culminates in a graphic self clitoridectomy, I was ill disposed towards ever seeing a LVT film ever again. Yet I kept seeing images from Melancholia and felt myself being drawn towards this wedding melodrama coupled with an unlikely planetary disaster. Having checked the BBFC’s website and found that it contains nothing more shocking that Kirsten Dunst naked, I decided to pick my own path between the contrasting reviews and write my own.
I kept telling myself in the cinema: even if you hate it, at least you have enjoyed up to now. I loved the powerful images and music of the opening sequence. And then I laughed – a lot – particularly in the first part. From the limousine too big to handle on the winding roads to the impromptu golf buggy driving by the elusive bride, I was stifling snorts – and then not even bothering. So instead of coming away feeling like the film’s title, I am calm, happy and full of the endorphins of having had a good laugh. I’ve not had such a titter since Potiche – or Wonder Woman.
Anyone who says if you’re not a LVT fan you won’t like this is wrong. I have hated everything I’ve read and seen of his films up to now (Breaking The Waves being another example). I often give harsh reviews and hate pretence, but I can truly say I loved this. I’m still not quite sure I fully understood the film. I sensed the see saw of emotions between the horses and the sisters, and how the family is pared down to just the sisters and child as all being significant. But I would be happy to go again to ponder further on the meaning of ash tasting meatloaf and baths.
The acting in the first part of the film felt very real, and then the second seemed to shift into a new style where we are no longer emulating real life. The reviewer who commented that the characters don’t do anything they should has missed the point. What can you do when a planet is due to hit? We would not be told about it – nanny decisions would be made on behalf of the public to avoid hysteria. That may be a metaphorical point, but it is also realistic. There are only two people who could have stopped Melancholia hitting earth – Superman and God. Neither are in the movie. And neither are these a factor for many scientists and world leaders. I believe in God and the power of prayer, but it might be that stopping Melancholia is not a divine intervention She will make. LVT never mentions God, faith or an afterlife, but those who believe in those might see that the moment of doom is a catapult into a new, higher world.
When Kirsten’s character Justine accepts that death is coming, she looses her depression and becomes calm. Maybe there’s something in that as a world view – not just about when one will expire, but that in generally accepting what cannot be changed, there is a peace and letting go in any situation.
When the end came, it was amazing and beautiful. I just wished I had seen it on a bigger screen and sat on the front row. This is surely what IMAXs are for. But it’s the kind of film that rarely is given the kind of viewing conditions that it deserves. I saw it in a 100 seater auditorium. Yet it should no more be shown in such a setting than Avatar. Seeing Melancholia’s dramatic finale is a safe way to face annihilation. If such an extinction ever really comes, this is the way to experience it: looking full into it, finding it exhilarating and savouring the moment, whether or not it is followed by silence and black as in the film, or as I believe, something even better.