Sometimes I'm just not sure if Lars Von Trier creates films for pleasure, to entertain, to inspire. Or simply just to provoke an extreme reaction out of people. With his last effort, Antichrist part of me can kind of get the appeal. It's edgy, it's horrific, it's uncomfortable. It's not for everyone, frankly it's not really for me. All pro Nazi 'propaganda' from his latest Cannes adventure aside, his latest entry to his controversial filmography Melancholia is leaving me, well...kind of glum. However perhaps not in the way Mr Trier probably intended.
The film centres around the wedding of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) in all its melodramatic glory, and the strain relationships she has with her bitter mother (Charlotte Rampling), womanising father (John Hurt), passive fiancé (Alexander Skarsgard), overly tense sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and super rich brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Oh and all the while, the world is facing its impending apocalypse from an unknown planet set to collide with the Earth. Yeah...
Firstly I'll say Trier has probably made his most visually gorgeous film to date. Beautifully shot, striking special effects - especially in the closing scene - and to be fair one of his classiest cast ensembles since Dogville. Also the dynamics of the relationships with each character is well articulated, especially when combating their overwhelming fear with their undeniable fate.
The main problem is just it all felt so hollow, so empty, so frustratingly superficial. Arguably it had echoes of Terrence Malick's Tree of Life from earlier this year, especially in the spacey, Kubrickian imagery. The main difference however was that ponderous, philosophical, feeling I felt from that (Tree of Life) experience compared to this. I realise one could split hairs with how equally pretentious they both are, but least with Tree of Life I didn't want to gauge my eyes out with a rusty nail afterwards. Tree of Life was high concept cinematic art, this was just tortuously lacklustre given the devastating subject.
Though Kirsten Dunst's performance was a mature outing from the star, an attempt to be truly captivating, a bit strange, she - like the rest of the supporting cast - was just so darn dislikeable it mattered little to me by the film's closing scene whether they survive the end of the world or not. Perhaps this was Trier's point, highlighted in a section of the film's dialogue where Dunst's character explains our world is evil and it won't be missed. Given the characters in this and his previous films, Trier himself probably believes this point of view too and if that's the case I feel sorry for him, and his lack of soul.
Besides Charlotte Gainsbourg, the rest of the cast at least had a bit of modern Jane Austin-esque humour about them. Kiefer Sutherland's tragic optimism, John Hurt's drunken buffoonery and Charlotte Rampling's scene stealing bitterness. If twisted into some kind of comedy I would probably 'get it' more.
Tedious, superficial, pretentious guff. Lars, you disappoint me. What happened to the edginess? What happened to the controversy? It was so passive and blasé it genuinely hurt. The only thing saving this from only receiving a single mark out of five - and I say this in the most professional manner - is knowing Ms Dunst has a nice set of boobies on her. It's a bittersweet victory though. Melancholia. Yes that's exactly what I'm feeling right now.
Melancholia is in selected cinemas from Friday September 30th 2011.