Archive for September 20th, 2016

30. Melancholia (2011)


by Pat Perry

“The earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it.”

Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia is, in the simplest terms, the story of a wedding, two sisters and the end of the world.

At its deepest level, it presents the destruction of the earth as metaphor for a clinical depression that renders all human ritual and activity essentially meaningless and futile.

It’s a work of science fiction as well, although the science it’s based on is apparently specious. Type “Melancholia movie science” into any search engine, and you’ll find a plethora of posts by scientists (both amateur and professional) grumbling about the “implausible” planetary “dance of death” that winds a slow and sinister thread through the film to its explosive climax.(In a nutshell, they’ll tell you it’s impossible for a planet to come out of hiding from behind the sun and smash into the earth within a matter of days, per the film’s depiction. Rather, those unlikely events would play out over many years.)

As apocalyptic dramas go, Melancholia is unusually intimate in scope and decidedly low-tech. It’s not so much about the end of all mankind as it is about the end of a small, sequestered family group. The deadly approach of the rogue planet is mostly measured through a loop of wire attached to a stick.

But this is a Lars Von Trier film, and Von Trier has never played to standard audience expectations. Like all  of his best work, Melancholia is equal parts transcendent and absurd – chilling or heartbreaking in one moment, completely wack-a-doo in the next. I well remember seeing it on its opening night in 2011 at a suburban art-house theater; the audience hooted with derision throughout much of it, and many of them complained noisily all the way out of the auditorium. (What had they been expecting? Obviously these people had not been fans of Dogville or Dancer in the Dark, let alone Anti-Christ. Or even seen them, for than matter.) My boyfriend also hated it and we had a fairly rancorous argument about it on the drive home. But that’s the way it goes with the director I fondly refer to as Mr. Shaky-Cam Provocateur – he’s a divider, not a uniter. Based on my experiences of discussing his other films, I’m looking forward to some lively debate on the comments thread for this post. (more…)

Read Full Post »