Tag Archives: Lars Von Triers

Further thoughts of Melancholia

I’m not done with Melancholia yet.

Whilst scheming getting to a suitable cinema where I can enjoy it fully for a second viewing, I have been thinking about it a full 2 days. In the middle, I saw another film, and the contrast was interesting.

I’m glad I only paid 99p to see Super 8. I only got the value of half of that. But what struck me was the difference between how Melancholia and Super 8 dealt with disaster. In Super 8, the train doesn’t just blow up – it carries on exploding. I think the train’s carriages all blow up twice. I wanted to shout: please! This has gone on too long. I felt like that when I first saw Titanic. We had to watch every detail imaginable. We had to see the plates smashing. I recall thinking – what a wasteful shot.

If Hollywood had made Melancholia, the village would have gathered for a vigil amid emotional squeals and they’d bond with their estranged Dad. The president would have spoken on behalf of the whole world. We’d see every shrub in the grounds and every utensil in the house be consumed by fire.

I liked the microcosmic approach, the lack of panicked radio chatter and running troops and no sirens.

I am not impressed by how much journalists say predictable things and how they have all likened Melancholia to a certain film.

I would like to say which 2 films it reminds me of – neither have been mentioned by any reviews I’ve read.

One is Solaris (2004). Both Solaris and Melancholia are named after fictional planets and use CGI but often sparingly. I recall the makers saying in the  extras of  Solaris that they could have chosen background shots of the planet to be in full view, to better justify the expensive effect. But they chose it to be a blue slice in the corner of the screen. Both planets are blue and have mysterious properties that bring behaviours of people in contact with it. They’re both melodramas and psychodramas, despite a potential sci fi label. George Clooney also falls prey to the planet at the end – this time by choice – but in both cases, protagonists unite united with loved ones. In both, it’s a powerful finale. The hypnoptic other worldy music of Solaris was used on a trailer prior to Melancholia’s screening. I have been listening to The Planets, wondering why LVT chose Wagner’s music for his film, and what the effect would be of playing Holst’s Mars over the  world’s end instead.

The other film that the first part reminds me of is After the Wedding, by another Danish director, though one key difference is humour. I recall Susanne Bier’s excellent piece being quite intense. The only thing I laughed at was its Danish title. As I said before of Melancholia, it’s not often I laugh that hard at the cinema. I only wish its trailer showed those laughs instead of showing the worst whispery lines of irritating children and a non stop intensity which is not representative.

The other thing I would like to comment on is Lars’s apparent critique of rituals: wedding day cake cutting, how one should say goodbye to the world (I laughed at Justine’s response to Claire’s idea for that)… and then having one anyway with the open to the sky space ‘tent’. I share a dislike of ritual to some extent.

I liked too that melancholiacs hate fakery and want the world to be real.

I’m also intrigued by the notion that melancholia was thought to be to do with humours and bile and planets. Humans have always believed (sometimes rightly) that heavenly bodies affect us – our tides, our periods, werewolfs. The planet Melancholia was thought to actually exist.

I’ve read more and thought again about the opening images and now I realise the grey treacle at the start is how Justine sees her depression, and that she sees herself as Ophelia, lying in water, drowning romantically.

I can see the romanticism with being melancholy – as did Anne of Green Gables and a pen friend I once had who billed herself thus…

I don’t agree with LVT’s doom and nihilism – or the sound of his next film. But I certainly enjoyed this and I am pleased that several other reviewers agree, although some of them were surprised at enjoying it too.

I would like to end with another plea to show this in suitable auditoriums. I wrote to a local cinema asking them to swap it from their 40 seat living room screen to their c200 seater main screen. They said that the other film they’ve booked is likely to be more popular, but Melancholia is gaining alot of attention at present, and is likely to appeal more widely than just to the audience who normally like LVT films. If I see that an epic film is not shown in suitable surrounds, I won’t go. Melancholia needs to be enjoyed as big and full as you can get. So at present I am stuck that no cinema in travelling distance is offering that and so my second viewing is not looking imminent – which means I and the box office lose out.


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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.

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