REVIEW: Melancholia

13 03 2012

It’s a shame “Melancholia” lasts more than eight minutes.

The movie’s prologue is absolutely stunning.  Writer/director Lars von Trier evokes a strong emotional response with his use of stunning imagery and an evocative score from Tristan und Isolde.  The gorgeous shots, drifting slowly across the screen, are like a walk through an art gallery of film.

But the opening of “Melancholia” is so good that it’s almost too good.  It purveys basically the entirety of the movie, even giving away the movie’s big ending.  So in essence, once you’ve seen the beginning, you’ve seen it all.

So when von Trier starts using words to communicate a message, the movie ceases to be very effective.  The first half’s naturalism just hits flat note after flat note.  The wedding of Kirsten Dunst’s wildly depressed Justine is an utter disaster, and her moodiness is painful to watch.  It’s supposed to be beguiling us into figuring out her every whim, but instead it just makes Justine unsympathetic and a pain to watch.  Excuse me for totally ceasing to care about an hour through the movie.

Then the movie’s second half descends into the bizarre as a planet, Melancholia, begins a collision course into the earth.  While Jack Bauer – I mean, Kiefer Sutherland, and his wife Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) begin to panic, Justine is calm as a cucumber, uniquely suited to face the crisis because of her condition.  “Melancholia” seems to be trying to enact those how would you spend the last hours of your life fantasies, but they are hardly illuminating save for the manic depressants in the crowd.

So perhaps the best way to view “Melancholia” is as a short film.  The movie’s opening is where von Trier’s artistry shines the brightest.  If you want to wait around for another two hours for genital mutilation or a remark sympathizing with Nazis, you will just waste your time.  The movie is not all that far-fetched; add in some robots and the plot would work as a Michael Bay movie.  B-