I like Lars Von Trier, I really do. Granted, I haven’t seen all of his work, but I appreciate what he does and how he does it. But man, MELANCHOLIA was pretty insufferable.
It’s about the end of the world, but not really about the end of the world. The crux of it all, the whole point, is him examining the idea that people who are depressed handle high stress situations better than others. Because, well, they’re already expecting the worst. And what’s more high stress than the impending doom of the entire planet? Judging by the first half of the film, I’d say an elaborate wedding is, but still.
I have serious problems getting into films with asshole and/or very selfish characters. And boy, is Kirsten Dunst’s character Justine weirdly selfish. The first hour of the film is her wedding, and she wafts around ignoring it all. She disappears, she delays, she tells people off, she takes a nap. Why? It’s never really clear what the bug up her ass is, but that kind of behavior is hard to make relatable, understandable, or excusable. Honestly. “We’re going to cut the cake soon.” “OK, I’m just going to go take a LENGTHY BATH.” The thought process just doesn’t jive with reality.
The logistics seem weird too, although it’s a minor and moot point. But, for instance, they announce that they’re going to cut the cake at 11:30pm. Which she’s ultimately late for. Then, even later, they walk out to the golf course to launch paper lanterns and stuff. And then, later still, she tells off her boss while they eat soup, also out on the golf course. It’s got to be at least 3 in the morning at this point, if not later. What kind of wedding serves soup, on a golf course, at 3 in the morning? What kind of wedding attendees would put up with countless lengthy delays, and still be down for some pre-dawn lawn soup? Who, I ask?
I digress. That’s all the first half. Part 1. Part 2 follows her sister a few weeks later. Justine is depressed as shit and comes to her sister’s to wallow. Then the world ends. And it took a little while, but afterwards I realized that the first part didn’t seem to have much point at all. It didn’t really tell a story. It didn’t set any mood for the second half. And the second half is only marginally interesting and suffers from some other logical conundrums. Kiefer Sutherland’s ultimate decision at the end, for example. That doesn’t fit with anything else at all.
MELANCHOLIA does have some, OK, a lot of beautiful images. The prelude of the world ending is gorgeous and hynoptic and lyrical. The music, mostly the overture from Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde, is stirring and all that. The opening is a lot like the opening of Trier’s last film ANTICHRIST (which, to my surprise, I did enjoy) style-wise. Just no hardcore sex and child deaths.
Can’t say I really recommend it. People really seem to be digging it though, so maybe I missed something.
But can we please stop pretending Kirsten Dunst somehow deserves an Oscar nomination for this? Because, let’s be honest. She’s nothing spectacular here at all.