I love a great piece of film. But I’m no film expert. I don’t have any real credentials to back up a formal review of anything I see in the theater, so I have no intentions of criticizing or applauding what I know little about.
I do however feel secure in saying Melancholia, the most recent work from Danish filmmaker, Lars von Trier, was my most eagerly-anticipated film of 2011, and I won’t be surprised if it is the best thing I’ll see in all of 2012.
I didn’t know anything about Lars von Trier until I read about his 2009 film Antichrist, and found it to be a wildly emotional and unnerving portrayal of grief, mourning, and in turn, deep depression. With Antichrist, all it took was two characters in a very isolated setting to hook my attention. After watching it I wanted more from the director, and couldn’t have been more excited about Melancholia. Which is sort of weird, since its another film that explores depression.
But when a gray subject matter is supported by such thoughtful and ambitious ideas, its hard not to appreciate it as a thing of wonder. The opening sequence is a series of vignettes presented in surreal slow motion, which illustrate the key chapters of the film in such artful hyperbole, leaving little question to what ultimately will happen in the film. Lars von Trier refers to this as the film’s overture. And just as the overture of Antichrist had my immediate attention, so did this beautiful sequence, preceding acts one and two of Melancholia. It really set the stage for a film that features what lacks so much in mainstream cinema: thoughtful idea development, through carefully considered symbolism and visual representation, that allows the audience to interpret what is being portrayed, what greater perspective the director is trying to express, and what we can take away as tangible insight on a very real avenue of human life.
I value this sort of filmmaking so much. When I go to the movies, I want to see something I can truly appreciate as a thoughtful piece of work that doesn’t feel tainted or influenced too heavily by the needs of a greater audience. An idea that is well considered by an artist, and in turn, a perfectly curated film that only exists because they wanted to explore an intimate detail of their life. Lars von Trier has dealt with depression in his life, as he deems himself to be a melancholiac. This just makes me admire Melancholia even more, knowing that its creation stems directly from an artist who can empathize so directly with the characters he’s created.
Like I said, this was not meant to be a formal review of Melancholia, but just an outlet for me to appreciate a great film. I really felt something when I watched Melancholia, if nothing more than a great feeling of privilege to experience a real work of art.
I would encourage anyone who has seen the film to read an interview with Lars von Trier, called Longing for the End of It All, by Nils Thorsen. Here, the director talks openly about the characters in the film, and how he came to write and direct Melancholia, as well as his thoughts on existence, wether we are truly alone on Earth, and what that means to him. It’s not exactly a film spoiler, but I would encourage reading the interview only after seeing the film to get the most out of it.
The official Melancholia trailer below.