Monday, June 18, 2012
After my third viewing of The Tree of Life, I made it a necessity to finally see Melancholia, the complete antithesis of Terrence Malick's evocation of life's beauty. Lars Von Trier, a gifted, dark, and sad man, contrarily argues for the evil in mankind and sees the arrival of a threatening planet called Melancholia indifferently. If this planet destroys earth, then this inherent evil will be wiped away. How could that be bad? Many will find problems with Von Trier's pessimism, yet while he may deny the beauty of man, he does not deny beauty itself. In fact, one could argue that Von Trier sees the planet Melancholia and its impending destruction as a beautiful occurrence. Why else would he film it with such splendor and grace set to the breathtaking music of Wagner? The opening minutes of Melancholia rival the beauty of Malick's creation sequence. The next hour or so is exquisite, as well. Kirsten Dunst is Justine, a moody young woman who has just been married. Von Trier, with sky high ambition, uses nearly half of the film's running time at the wedding reception. It's a nightmarish event that lasts an eternity. In a way, the disasters at the party foreshadow the apocalypse. That is to say, if the apocalypse were a wedding reception, it might look a little like this one. I wasn't as enthusiastic about the second half of the film. This is clearly a major project for Van Trier, yet the last hour of the film is a bore when it should have been something great. And I don't necessarily mind that it moves slow and that the tone is achingly bleak. What frustrates me is that Von Trier doesn't actually have anything interesting to say except have Dunst, who already seems half-dead, say that people are evil. Gladly, Von Trier makes up for it with a fantastic final few minutes that leaves the viewer with the same sense of awe experienced at the film's beginning.