Melancholia

October 16, 2011 4 Comments

Chicken Little was right…..the sky IS falling and the end of the world is here….Lars Von Trier’s remarkable film “Melancholia”  is an exploration of the internal sense of doomedness (through the harrowing depression of Justine(Kirstin Dunst) that sinks to new  melancholic depths on her idyllic wedding day AND the literal and inevitable doomedness of  our hapless planet which has somehow managed to orbit itself on a collision course with  the planet Melancholia.  The sky is falling and there is no way out.  The film begins with a beautifully constructed montage  sequence of key events we will experience, woven with CGI expressions of what is to follow..set to Wagner’s “Tristen and Isolde” and then the fade to black…blackness and silence which is ultimately broken by the words “Melancholia by Lars Von Trier”.   Although the scope of the is film begs for comparison’s with “Tree of Life”  this year’s film by Terrance Mallick , they share neither purpose  nor expression.  Von Trier managed to generate controversy about his film at this year’s Cannes Festival, where he apparently blithely declared himself  “a Nazi” (Von Trier seems driven to evoke turmoil in his audience and colleagues)….but this is not a film to miss.  Most of the film takes place at the beautiful estate of Justine’s sister(Charlotte Gainsborough) and husband(Kiefer Sutherland), where we are compelled to wait with them, hoping for the miracle that will not come(and this is NOT a spoiler–von Trier assures us of this in the opening montage…..and don’t we all already know that?  This film wonders with us about how the end is met..the personal ending and the ultimate one.  There are no zombies, no riots, no astronauts who will fly into the intrusive planet and save us all….

this film has not yet opened on the screens in Metro Detroit however it IS available on Comcast On Demand under “just in”…if you don’t have Comcast, find a friend (or make a friend) who does…I had the opportunity to watch the opening sequence again after the film was over(the joys of active spectatorship)…maybe it was to test the validity of the initial feelings when I first watched the sequence…I think I was really trying to undo the end….oh the power of film!…..Jolyn Wagner

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4 Comments to “Melancholia”
  1. Bruce Russell says:

    Jolyn says that the scope of Melancholia “begs for comparison with Malick’s ‘Tree of Life’,though they share neither purpose nor expression.” In June I commented on “Tree of Life” and said, “The universe is a vast, mysterious, awe-inspiring place presided over by a loving God. That, I believe, is the view of the world Malick tries to depict in Tree of Life.”

    Melancholia is the polar opposite of Tree of Life. Justine, the main character in the film says, “The earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it. Nobody will miss it.” Later she adds, “life on earth is evil” and says that “we are alone; there isn’t life somewhere else.” She provides evidence to her sister that she knows things others can’t, and then says, “And when I say we’re along, we’re along. Life is only on earth and not for long.” (This discussion with her sister takes place at about the 1 hour and 34 minute mark.)

    Justine’s view of the universe is bleak and godless, unlike Malick’s. Who is right? That’s a philosophical question that films can raise, but I don’t think can answer. The answer requires arguments and reasons that a film cannot provide, unless it puts those arguments in the mouths of the characters in the film. But then it becomes a film of a philosophical dialogue. That’s possible: people could make a film of one of Plato’s dialogues, or of Hume’s Dialogues on Natural Religion. But without that explicit argumentation, film won’t be able to answer the questions it raises. Don’t you think?!

  2. Bruce Russell says:

    Uh, Justine says, “And when I say we’re ALONE, we’re ALONE,” not ALONG!

    By the way, melancholy makes life miserable when death isn’t imminent, but if Justine is any indication, it seems to serve one quite well when death is near. So perhaps we should all become more melancholy as we age! Depressing thought, no?

  3. jolyn says:

    I have often been surprised when working with older people facing death that acceptance seems more predominent than the melancholy I would expectno doubt its individualized. Also tho didn’t justine seen less melancholy in the cave synthesis veryvend?

  4. Bruce Russell says:

    Well, to a melancholy person, life is bad and hardly worth living. When the end is near maybe they think, “See! What did I tell you? It’s all going to end in a bang. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!” Ironically, this sort of confirmation of the melancholy person’s view of life can lift the melancholy from her shoulders.

    And, uh, life on earth is not all bad! My nephew Leo is a lovable little boy whom I love! I slightly overstated my case earlier on! Melancholy will do that to you.

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