CGB Review of Melancholia (2011)

“Lord, can I just click out of Netflix, go downstairs and put The Imitation Game back in the Blue-Ray machine?” I said aloud as I endured Melancholia’s overly-long wedding reception.

This is my review of Melancholia!

Lars Von Trier - Melancholia 2

Melancholia tells the story of two sisters, Justine and Claire and the disintegration of their co-dependent relationship as they await the inevitable destruction of Earth once it collides with the planet Melancholia.
This movie is directed by Lars Von Trier, a Danish filmmaker who has his own approach and style to his films (just look up Dogme 95).  In a nutshell, he loves handheld cameras, nudity and being artsy.  I think one of his more recent films features a girl walking up some stairs and then 3+5 appears on the screen because–Von Trier.
Guys and gals, I really wanted to love Melancholia.  After The Imitation Game gave me an incredible experience, I was ready to be wowed by another indie movie.  But once the credits rolled with Melancholia, I felt drained from slogging through this one.
Okay, let’s go over the few things this movie got right and where it took a nosedive.

The Hits
The opening scene is amazing!  We see some beautifully choreographed montages of our main characters treading nature landscapes in slow motion, accompanied by Triston and Isolde musical score.  I’ll give the movie this: If you’re studying cinematography, then you’re gonna love this film because there are some really gorgeous shots of the courtyard, the moon, and especially of the sky.
Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg (who shows up in a lot of Von Trier’s films) give everything they’ve got to make the film watchable.  They are believable as two sisters with a strained relationship.  You may find it odd that Claire has a British accent while Justine doesn’t, but then we see that their mother is British and the father is American, so this potential issue is fixed right away.
The story of two characters coping with an inevitable coming doom is a compelling story arch that can make for some great character studies if done well.  The actual plot of Melancholia is pretty original and the fantastic opening scene made me feel hopeful for a surreal experience.
Well, I had an experience, all right…a frustrating one.

The Misses
The wedding reception…ugh!  This is where the pacing suffers greatly.  I asked my mother, “Are wedding receptions this long?”  Justine’s wedding reception has got to be the longest, most drawn-out movie wedding reception in cinematic history.  What makes it drag is that there are segments that could have been cut out.  I have no problem with Justine sitting silently in the bathtub during her reception or the sisters’ mother ranting about the woes of modern marriage.  These are necessary moments for character development.  However, do I really need to know that Justine and Claire’s dad collects spoons?  Is it essential to the plot that we watch Justine try to drive the wedding limo?  Was Justine’s boss/the best man even needed in this story?  I understand that boss characters typically represent greed and corporatism, but his character has one long wedding toast speech and then a handful of sentences before he leaves the plot, never to be seen again.  If you’re going to have your main character stand up to someone, make sure that the person they’re confronting has done something to negatively impact them.  Have Justine confront her hateful mother or Claire’s husband who never shuts up about how much the wedding cost.
In my past reviews, I’ve complained about too much dialogue.  Aloha’s use of dialogue involved characters walking up to each other and explaining exposition.  Courageous used ten lines of dialogue to explain something that could’ve been summed up in five words or less.  Melancholia has the opposite problem; there is not enough dialogue.  When characters do talk, the conversations stop the story because characters will talk about the food or the music, basically things that have little to no connection to advancing the story or developing character.

I did some research on Lars Von Trier and this seems to be a guy who really loves cinema.  “I’m afraid of everything except filmmaking,” he has said.
I know you have a lot of phobias, Lars, but pacing is your friend, not your foe.

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