Monday, July 19, 2021

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia is a senior-safe introduction to Lars von Trier. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know who he is, von Trier is a filmmaker from the distant land of Germany who is known for boundary-pushing avant-garde cinema. Most of his films are released unrated to cinephile audiences. This is one of the exceptions.

Melancholia was released America-style mainstream for whiskey-drinking simpletons. It has few “genre” elements and stays within the self-imposed prison of the “drama” category through most of the film. There is some sci-fi brewing in the background, but 95% of the film could play for a geriatric home.


Melancholia stars the highly fuckable Kirsten Dunst, a lady who most women are jealous of. In this film she’s a copywriter, which is a marketing role here portrayed as simply writing clever taglines. This framing device exists to give the audience a chance to stare at her without getting bogged down in plot.

Dunst’s asshole boss follows her around at a party trying to get her to write copy for a breakfast cereal or something. It’s her vacation, and the stress at work is apparently so overwhelming that she can’t be asked to bother with it. This is a microcosm of life on Earth in the 21st century, which is relevant later.

Some kids find some space stuff on the Internet pertaining to the rogue planet Melancholia on a collision course with Earth. You can see where this is going.

There are some interesting scenes before the end of the world. Dunst pisses in the grass, which is the closest the film gets to an on-screen orgasm. She also has some sobering lines that seem to prelude Midsommar (2019). Lars von Trier seems to have compromised a bit for the American multiplexes in that the film lacks a suitably nihilistic tone. It’s not a hardcore exploration of anything, it’s just a postmodernist drama with a novel premise.

It’s the end of the world, and a few characters cope via depression and suicide rather than my preferred anger and lust. Nobody’s ripping up the town, it’s just a lot of moping and pouting. Perhaps the film’s biggest problem is that one never sees the characters enjoying anything. If you drift through life without experiencing the moment, you might watch this film and notice nothing abnormal. But this is a downer movie all the way through. That subversion might have slipped past the theater chains, but I notice it now.