Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby Sabin » Tue Jan 03, 2012 2:53 am

Kirsten Dunst was pretty good in the Spider-Man films, but it became very clear early on that her role was a fairly rote one and the experience of filming as them as long as she did on a semi-yearly basis took a toll on her. To put it frankly, the woman looks exhausted most of the time. And the picture she picked in between Spidey flicks (with the exception of Eternal Sunshine..., which made admirable use of her quirky wounded quality) were less than worthy.

I liked her quite a bit in Crazy/Beautiful, and I like her quite a bit in Melancholia. Karina Longworth wrote a beautiful piece about how it's portrait of depression is intricately linked to Dunst's current on and off-camera persona. I don't blame Dunst for the laziness of Von Trier's script and she does what she can with the increasingly ridiculous part and the increasingly ridiculous film.
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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby Damien » Tue Jan 03, 2012 2:39 am

I've been a major fan of Kirsten Dunst ever since Interview With The Vampire. I think she was particularly award-worthy in Crazy/Beautiful -- a wonderful, touching performance and she was also perfect as Tobey Maguire's girlfriend in the Spider-man pictures; they were terrific together.
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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby Reza » Tue Jan 03, 2012 2:31 am

bizarre wrote:I think Kirsten Dunst is very underrated. She may be limited in range but she hasn't been well-cast often enough to really answer that question. But she's been doing great, low-key work for more than a decade already with Interview with the Vampire, The Virgin Suicides, Crazy/Beautiful, The Cat's Meow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Marie Antoinette and All Good Things, all of which she is worthy of awards in.

Of all the moppets crowding the late-90s scene, her career is the one I'm most surprised wasn't taken seriously.


I think she will finally be taken seriously. Watch her appear soon on an Oscar nominations list in the near future.

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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby ksrymy » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:37 pm

I think the two actresses played so well off one another because of von Trier's fantastic role reversal in here.

Justine's crippling depression manages to keep her serene alongside Leo while Claire, who bodes well under pressure (à la the wedding planning), breaks down before the shockwave destroys them all.
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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby bizarre » Mon Jan 02, 2012 2:19 pm

I think Kirsten Dunst is very underrated. She may be limited in range but she hasn't been well-cast often enough to really answer that question. But she's been doing great, low-key work for more than a decade already with Interview with the Vampire, The Virgin Suicides, Crazy/Beautiful, The Cat's Meow, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Marie Antoinette and All Good Things, all of which she is worthy of awards in.

Of all the moppets crowding the late-90s scene, her career is the one I'm most surprised wasn't taken seriously.

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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby nightwingnova » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:41 pm

I agree that Tree of Life comes across as a "best of NOVA" show. The parts that didn't involve nature photography were too slight in substance to hold my interest. I stopped watching about halfway through the film.


ksrymy wrote:I actually really enjoyed this film. I thought Gainsbourg and Dunst were phenomenal especially Dunst since this is the first time I have ever seen her do something of substance (although The Virgin Suicides was pretty alright). I would nominate Dunst because, as it's been said here, she rises above von Trier's typical misogyny and makes her character something personal and wholesome. Her depression in the 'Claire' half of the film is heartbreaking and shattering (on a side note, seeing her naked in this film fulfilled my thirteen-year old self's dreams). But that's not to say Gainsbourg is not good. She's more of the heart of the film as she plays her conflicting emotions very well.

Since we're all comparing the two, I prefer this film to The Tree of Life which I find trivial at times although both are very brilliantly shot and photographed.

I also seem to enjoy von Trier's work more than you all as I, too, think Dogville is a masterpiece yet Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves are films I hold dear to me.

But back to Melancholia. I found Charlotte Rampling horrendous. I could not stand her character and am glad she had such a recessed role; however, she played her part very well. I found the leitmotifs in the seven-minute opening much better than Malick's inexplicable, unrelated forty-minute NOVA documentary on the creation of life within his film.

I agree that the dialogue is pretty iffy at parts but Dunst, Gainsbourg, and Rampling are able to eke out noteworthy performances. I was also shocked at how subtle and downplayed this film was as von Trier usually tries to heighten just about everything he does.

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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby ksrymy » Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:14 pm

I actually really enjoyed this film. I thought Gainsbourg and Dunst were phenomenal especially Dunst since this is the first time I have ever seen her do something of substance (although The Virgin Suicides was pretty alright). I would nominate Dunst because, as it's been said here, she rises above von Trier's typical misogyny and makes her character something personal and wholesome. Her depression in the 'Claire' half of the film is heartbreaking and shattering (on a side note, seeing her naked in this film fulfilled my thirteen-year old self's dreams). But that's not to say Gainsbourg is not good. She's more of the heart of the film as she plays her conflicting emotions very well.

Since we're all comparing the two, I prefer this film to The Tree of Life which I find trivial at times although both are very brilliantly shot and photographed.

I also seem to enjoy von Trier's work more than you all as I, too, think Dogville is a masterpiece yet Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves are films I hold dear to me.

But back to Melancholia. I found Charlotte Rampling horrendous. I could not stand her character and am glad she had such a recessed role; however, she played her part very well. I found the leitmotifs in the seven-minute opening much better than Malick's inexplicable, unrelated forty-minute NOVA documentary on the creation of life within his film.

I agree that the dialogue is pretty iffy at parts but Dunst, Gainsbourg, and Rampling are able to eke out noteworthy performances. I was also shocked at how subtle and downplayed this film was as von Trier usually tries to heighten just about everything he does.
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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby Reza » Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:08 am

Sonic Youth wrote:Almost none of the cast members are able to sell their lines. Certainly not Charlotte Rampling, who did herself no favors taking on the role of the grotesque mother-as-monster with her over-elaborate speechifying, although it does continue the grand tradition of Von Trier's misogyny and contempt.


I thought she and John Hurt were the only interesting characters in this extremely messy and banal film and brought much needed life to the dull proceedings. Very amusing to see Rampling playing to the gallery. I would rather spend two hours with these two characters than with the extremely annoying twosome of Dunst & Gainsbourg.

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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby bizarre » Thu Dec 29, 2011 12:03 am

I surprised myself by really, really liking this. I usually loathe von Trier but I didn't really "feel" him here - at no point while watching could I picture him masturbating and cackling to himself in the editing suite - which is good. It is true that the story is built on the most blatant of thematic premises and the symbols are hamfisted, but I think here they are earnest enough to achieve a sort of purity. And even if the metaphors themselves are obvious (Melancholia = melancholia?!?! omg!) I think there is a real grace to the wedding sequences which lay depression bare in their depiction of Justine's destruction of her friends, self and private world before the physical world itself is destroyed. Of course the acting is the treat here and probably the key to making this work for me - Kirsten Dunst's portrayal of depression is so rigorous that one is able to ignore some of the risible dialogue she has to recite, and she manages to avoid abetting von Trier's misogyny by quite clearly making this role a personal one for herself. Gainsbourg's rawness in the second half, while less 'deep', is equally present and vivid. It's a great double act.

So, typically awful dialogue, a messy structure but (apart from the prologue, which I didn't like at all) surprisingly toned-down when it comes to pomp compared to LVT's past efforts, and quite affecting.

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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby Damien » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:40 pm

I'm largely in sync with Sonic on this silly movie.

So von Trier thinks the world is a lousy place. Too bad he can’t express that attitude in any but the most obvious and stupid ways, merely capturing the characters arbitrarily and unconvincingly doing things to express that angst. The film is extraordinarily facile, has little to say and keeps on saying it. As the great critic Jonathan Rosenbaum (writing not about Melancholia, but Dreyer’s Gertrud) said, “There are narrative and nonnarrative ways of summing up a life or conjuring a work of art, but when it comes to analyzing life or art in dramatic terms, it is usually the narrative method that wins hands down.” A gifted director would be able to convey this kind of mind-set in subtle ways through logical narrative actions (Nicholas Ray immediate springs to mind). On the plus side, as awful as the film is it is not quite the sheer torture of von Trier’s last film, Antichrist, there are some humorous moments (Udo Kier as an embittered wedding planner is a hoot) and Kiefer Sutherland gives a marvelous droll performance of total exasperation.
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Last edited by Damien on Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri Dec 09, 2011 2:00 am

Lars... please? Please give up the writing and film other people's screenplays instead? You're a true visual artist. You know exactly how to achieve a particular visual effect to establish a mood and a state of mind. But you are so determinately insular that you don't know how to portray human connections (or else you purposely avoid it), you don't know anything about science, and you don't know when you're writing wretched dialogue. And you don't want anyone to advise you, either. But believe me, retire your word-processor, okay? Your reputation as a maverick may suffer, but your films will be more meaningful.

As apocolyptic science fiction, the film is a load of hoo-hah mostly because his knowledge of science is embarrasingly lacking. But as a cinematic expression of despair, it's very credible. Now, I didn't say "portrayal" of despair. I said "expression". I'm not sure I ever bought Dunst as a severely troubled person (mostly due to the characterization as written; her displays of emotional instability - beating horses and having angry sex with a guy on a golf course - are writer's conceits), but I do buy Von Trier as one. That's not meant as snark. If Melancholia was meant to be an expression of his inner turmoil, regardless of the logic of the story or the credibility of the characters, then he's done it. He knows precisely how to put his turbulent state of mind on screen without the results feeling overwrought, abstruse or silly. In this film, at least, he is masterful at depicting the terror one might feel in a sudden power failure or running from room to room in an empty mansion all alone. During the extended wedding party sequence, the film tonally slides from joyous to awkward to disasterous in a way that feels completely organic and rarely abrupt over the course of the entire first half of the film. The spacious mansion where the film is set provides a palpable sense of isolation - the windowless ballroom where the party is held is suffocating. And do I actually detect a sense of humor? I hope so, especially if the opening shot (after the 10 minute long abstract prologue) of a white stretch limo clumsily entering the bottom of the frame in an overhead shot is meant to be as funny as I found it. The best evidence of Lars' visual sensibility is also the simpliest: a handmade invention that's supposed to measure the distance of the planet that's approaching the earth, as thought up by a little boy. Not only does it really measure the size of the image (though not the true distance), and not only is it something that a visually-oriented person would think of, but it also seems like something that could plausibly spring from the mind of a bright child.

But Melanchola is far more successful as a movie about himself than it is about anyone or anything in the movie. As impressive an achievement it is simply on a filmmaking level, there's still that picky matter of, well, content. I don't understand, for example, how it benefits the film to make nearly every character a selfish little shit. It may be an accurate representation of people in Lars' personal worldview, but it undermimes his story. And so does the atrocious dialogue which defeats poor Kirsten, who simply can't get a handle on it. It's not entirely her fault. Almost none of the cast members are able to sell their lines. Certainly not Charlotte Rampling, who did herself no favors taking on the role of the grotesque mother-as-monster with her over-elaborate speechifying, although it does continue the grand tradition of Von Trier's misogyny and contempt. That said, Justine, the depressed central character, is a considerable improvement over his previous wimpering, helpless women. Her 'melancholia' is in a way a rebuff to all the shits around her, a passive-aggressive statement to the people who make her unhappy rather than a consequence of their hurtful words and actions. That's a step forward for Von Trier, but it's still very adolescent. Justine knows life is worth less than nothing, and she has superior moral standing by realizing this long before everyone else does. As Joan Rivers would say, "Oh, grow up!"

Dunst is getting all the awards buzz, and here's where I cry foul. The one cast member who's able to rise above Lars' material and create a mutli-dimensional character is Charlotte Gainsbourg who does brilliant work juggling the conflicting feelings she has for her sister (by the way, what's the explanation for the different accents?), and for the slow-burn buildup of mild anxiousness culminating in helpless panic. She's the one who deserves the Oscar nom. Dunst is a striking camera subject, and with her unkempt appearence and pinched voice, she sometimes reminded me of a young Jennifer Jason Leigh. But there's no inner life to her, no sense that she understands her character beyond the script. It's a superficial perforamance, a mere show of depression. And, however heartfelt it is as an act of expression, so is the movie.
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Re:

Postby Reza » Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:20 am

Cinemanolis wrote:
Sabin wrote:I think Dogville is a masterpiece.

I second that.


Ditto.

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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby nightwingnova » Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:48 am

Gorgeous art direction and cinematography. Spot-on direction. A superbly creative lead performance from Kirsten Dunst. Great supporting performances.

The script is thin beyond the basic plot but serviceable.

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Re: Melancholia - Lars Von Trier's newest film

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 07, 2011 3:10 am

Remember in The Critic that short film that Jay Sherman made in college? The medley of end of the world visuals culminating with the Kool Aid man bursting through the wall? Stretch that out for another two and a half hours and that's basically Melancholia. Part of me is glad though. This is definitely the most pretentious art house film du jour since...Antichrist.

Lars von Trier's most successful films are ones that have the simplest, most damning critiques. With something like Antichrist, I'm not even sure he knows what he's saying. Melancholia is a similar morass of pretentious tropes, but it's rooted in an exploration of one woman's depression that is at first rather interesting. We're not properly introduced to Kirsten Dunst much before she starts wandering her wedding in a state of increased imbalance. Von Trier stages a wedding part like a trap, and she begins to sabotage the entirety of her future little by little. Depression is clearly something that von Trier knows quite a bit about, and it's very palpable in this portion of the film. The second portion of the film concerns Dunst's sister Charlotte Gainsborough as she rescues her sister from said depression a bit of time later. She is now so deeply regressed into misery that she can barely lift her legs or feed herself.

This all coincides with a planet named Melancholia that has been hiding behind the sun and is predicted to miss Earth by quite a bit. However, both the Earth and Melancholia are unaware that they are being directed by Lars von Trier.

Also, the first series of images are gorgeous Antichrist/Chanel Ad frames that spell out the entirety of the film before it happens. Kind of a spoiler, but you'd have to be an idiot to not get what's happening. I didn't much like this part even though it is pretty.

I'm mixed on Melancholia, but ultimately if you were to describe what happens in this film it would sound more compelling than it feels while you're watching it. It's a film of power that is interspersed with tedium. Just as depression can feel brilliantly tedious now that I think about it. The lulls have a vibrancy to them. I found myself wearying of Melancholia as it went along. It's pretty dumb and somewhat dull, but like most von Trier films it's directed with such conviction that the production of it all is quite a sight. I can only assume the reason that Kirsten Dunst won Best Actress over Charlotte Gainsborough was because they just gave her one a couple years ago, although this is clearly the superior performance (also, they like to star fuck).
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Postby Sabin » Thu May 19, 2011 2:29 pm

I don't know. This is one of the most interesting races for the Palme in recent memory. By all accounts it's between Le Havre, The Artist, The Tree of Life, Melancholia, and The Kid with the Bike. I don't think the Dardenne Bros. will win twice, and over the past twenty-five years, only they, Kusturica, and Bille August have won more than once. Lars von Trier isn't the worst choice in the world to join them. The Artist has Grand Prix written all over it. The Tree of Life is divisive, which isn't the most abnormal thing for Palme winners. And while everybody is enthusiastic about Le Havre, it would seem to be the lightest winner since...what? A Man and a Woman?
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