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Archive for January 4th, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by James Clark

In the stream of dead ends that is Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011), one moment stands out as most violently sustaining a rich man’s dagger tossed toward his wife, “Is everybody in your family mad?” That outspoken fellow having been found by her to have committed suicide with a bottle full of sleeping pills she had bought to administer to herself in the event that an astronomical singularity coming their way might not be as tame as predicted, she turns to her sister, Justine—whom she had installed as a permanent house guest due to the latter’s having become squashed to the point of virtual immobility on losing all will to live, but who had begun something of a recovery—and quietly proposes that they face the squashing of planet earth, by a larger planet gone far astray, by mustering affective graces whose true roots had never been functional. “I want us to be together when it happens… Help me. Justine. I want it to be nice… We could have a glass of wine…” Justine, who had regarded the cosmic developments with gentle awe and depth of body language far outpacing that of her more or less desperately insistent hosts, regards her sister, Claire, with hate in her eyes and a combatively rigid jaw. “Do you want to hear what I think of your plan? I think it’s a piece of shit! You want it to be nice? Why don’t we do it in the fuckin’ toilet?”

Now during the lengthy and painful migration to that spot, Justine had been far from a generous avatar of the precept, “the show must go on”—she had, in fact, produced a de facto divorce during her wedding reception—but none of her lurid “scenes” hitherto (as Claire, convening and directing her wedding show, had warned her against, on that of all days) ever reached such witless and vicious self-promotion. Though the heavenly body bearing down on a planet of remarkably hemorrhaging bathos had been given the name “Melancholia,” it is the melancholy of all of world historical motion that suffuses this film, and Justine’s crowning, self-defeating cruelty toward Claire could be seen as a frenzy of self-hate in face of a shocking instance of finitude. That may, however, be a misleading tangent, insofar as all the production energies here point away from making much of such personal status reports. (At the dying moments of the celebrity wedding in its fulsome debacle, the butler reminds Claire of the unfinished business of announcing a winner in the contest to guess the number of beans in a bottle. “That’s completely trivial,” is her coverage of the anti-climax as she sidles by.) (more…)

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