Friday, December 2, 2011


This cineaste often works on people’s nerves. His latest film “Melancholia” is in a way atypical insofar as he chose to film in a lower key than usual. The chamber music changes from the aggression of his earlier movies. However, he seems to be unable to decide between a coherent oeuvre that chooses to be “over the top” or “under the weather”. So we are mesmerized in this latest movie by a meditative, intimate fall from grace which is interlaced with seemingly prophetic images of unidentified things to come. The chaos in the movie house becomes a counter-point for the chaos outside. The actors are obliged to undergo a gradual process of having their personae stripped bare. As always there is some sadomasochistic element in this latest Von Trier film, which is at times embarrassing for the actors and the public alike. Denials never last, relationships are hell or sexual consumerism, and escape is the ultimate joke. The acting is great because Von Trier does not give in and the actors have no moment of respite, unless opening the soul with a scalpel equals needlework.

The meaning of the movie is too allegorical for normal consumption and Wagner’s music (the prelude of Tristan und Isolde) is over-manipulated in ways which would not have displeased the Führer. Still, the moments of beauty and almost perverse mental displacement and alienation are unforgettable. The end of the planet is more a wish fulfilled than an outcome dreaded. When the two sisters and the child build a construction of some twigs to find refuge, they signify that they have come to terms with inevitability, opposing fragility against force. The end is a logical acceptance of the saying that nothing lasts. This realization is not the outcome of some elongated process. It hits like short-lived pain. Maybe this is more a metaphor about deliverance than a walk in the realm of mental insomnia as described by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” Everybody in this film comes to terms with inner feelings and frustrations and finds solace in letting go, be it in death, hate or Wanderlust. The irony is that at the end all this was already taken care of by ”the end” to come, on the condition that one could read the signals. One just needs to be more sensible than others, to avoid the mediocrity of always wanting to keep things in one’s own hand.

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