I have considered myself a Lars von Trier fan for over a decade. Ever since, as a teenager, I stood horrified but completely absorbed in front of the screen as the conclusion of Breaking the Waves unfolded, the announcement of a new von Trier film is an event. I say this even though I haven’t truly loved any of his films in the past decade. Melancholia, which I saw months ago, was another in a series of disappointments. It is, however, the first in a while that I feel compelled to give a second chance.
There are many brilliant things about the movie. His previous film, Antichrist, was visually stunning, but his first-time collaboration with cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro here really takes it up a notch! At the risk of making it sound like a backhanded compliment, the film had every right to be among the five finalists for cinematography. I like the new visual style von Trier seems to be working with and am very interested to see where he will take it next.
Like almost all of his previous leading ladies (sorry Bryce Dallas Howard), Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg do an amazing job carrying the film. I know Dunst’s talents have been questioned in the past, but her last few roles seem to be trying to create some kind of reinvention that, if nothing else, is quite interesting to watch. Who knows where it’ll go and if it will work, but for the time being we at least know she had one incredible performance in her.
The problem for me seems to be that the plot completely fails to engage. Yes, on a cerebral level, it’s a brilliant story. Justine’s depression, the way those around her react to it, and in general the way the characters unravel as the apocalypse approaches is brilliant. Or so I want to think.
I think part of the problem is that I have come to expect a particular type of movie from von Trier. I expect more bite out of him. I expect big emotions. I want to be devastated as I was with Breaking the Waves. Absolutely gutted like with Dancer in the Dark (pictured above). Incensed, then relieved, then guilt-ridden as with Dogville. I felt nothing during Melancholia.
Again though, seeing as there are so many brilliant things about the movie, I do want to give it a second chance. I’m curious to hear what others thought of the movie though. I’m particularly interested to hear where this movie ranks for others who have loved past Lars von Trier movies.