Friday, June 03, 2011


Melancholia / Melancholia. DK/SE/FR/DE © 2011 Zentropa Entertainments / Memfis Film / Zentropa International Sweden / Slot Machine / Liberator Productions / Zentropa International Köln [tbc]. EX: Peter Garde, Peter Aalbæk Jensen. P: Meta Louise Foldager, Louise Vesth. D+SC: Lars von Trier. DP: Manuel Alberto Claro. PD: Jette Lehmann. Visual effects supervisor: Peter Hjorth. Visual effects by: Platige Image. Cost: Manon Rasmussen. Makeup + hair: Dennis Knudsen. Music: from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. S: Kristian Eidnes Andersen. ED: Molly Marlene Stensgaard. Loc: Västra Götaland (Sweden). Cast: Kirsten Dunst (Justine), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Claire), Kiefer Sutherland (John), Charlotte Rampling (Gaby), John Hurt (Dexter), Alexander Skarsgård (Michael), Stellan Skarsgård (Jack), Brady Corbet (Tim), Udo Kier (wedding planner). 137 min. Original in English. Released in Finland by Nordisk with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Saliven Gustavson. DCP 2K viewed at Tennispalatsi 7, Helsinki, 3 June 2011 (day of Finnish premiere).

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: ARRI ALEXA, Phantom HD Camera (some scenes). - [Film negative] format: ARRIRAW. - Cinematographic process: ARRIRAW (source format), Digital (high-speed shots). - Printed film format: 35 mm. - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

Melancholia has received good reviews in Finland. An especially intelligent and well-written one is by Juha Rosenqvist at the Film-o-Holic web magazine (in Finnish).

Melancholia is an apocalyptic poem. The opening is a haunting slow-motion vision about the end of the days. On the soundtrack there is Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, the favourite of Luis Buñuel. The formality of the castle and the garden brings to mind L'Année dernière à Marienbad of Alain Resnais. There is a reproduction of a Brueghel painting that was a favourite of Andrei Tarkovsky's. Everything reminds me of something I've seen or heard before, but Lars von Trier creates a vision of his own.

At the extravagant wedding party there is everything except love and happiness. This sequence is yet another example of the cinema's strange obsession with the theme of the cancelled wedding. The wedding has taken place, but the wife, Justine, rejects her husband on wedding night, and the husband leaves her. Justine announces to her boss her suggestion for the company tagline - "nothing" - and is fired on the spot.

Justine is deranged. She senses the impending apocalypse as the planet Melancholia is about to collide with the Earth.

Melancholia brings to mind another Danish film about the end of the world, Verdens undergang (Nordisk 1916, D: August Blom). There is something similar in the sense of boredom and nothingness.

The visual look of the film is a typical transitional digital one at least on the 2K DCP on display. The nature looks slightly denatured, and there is a sense that we are dead already. There is a lot of annoying handheld camerawork, which has plagued Trier's films at least since Breaking the Waves. Again I think that the point of the camera swaying is to distract us from noticing the void.

I spent a lot of time looking elsewhere and thinking about the brilliant media strategy of Peter Aalbæk Jensen and Lars von Trier. Their production is a high profile example of conceptual art, films with sometimes slight substance, but produced with fine talent and high professionalism and marketed with brilliant insight in scandal and media coverage.

Nevertheless Melancholia is a memorable representative of the contemporary cinema of despair.

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