Cannes 2011 review: Melancholia

A big CGI planet is threatening to wipe out the world – if only it would hurry up and end Lars von Trier's clunky, tiresome film

One wedding and a funeral – for the entire planet. That is what Lars von Trier is serving up in his latest extravaganza: a staggeringly tiresome and facetious film, supposedly about the end of the world.

  1. Melancholia
  2. Production year: 2011
  3. Directors: Lars von Trier
  4. Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Kirsten Dunst
  5. More on this film

Presumably filmed in Denmark, and set in a weirdly stateless, featureless location – a sort of Scando-amerika – the movie tells us first about a cosmically catastrophic wedding reception. Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is a manic depressive, whose wedding has been expensively arranged by her long-suffering sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her blowhard brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Tension erupts between the sisters' estranged parents (John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling) and the evening ends in chaos. Yet perhaps this disaster was written in the stars, because a rogue planet called Melancholia is heading for Earth on a collision course. Wealthy, worldly Claire is horrified at the end of days, but gloomy Justine greets the forthcoming disaster with torpid calm, and as the vast planet looms, blotting out the sky, an apocalyptically terrifying thought dawns: maybe M Night Shyamalan's The Happening wasn't quite so bad after all.

If Melancholia had been conceived with real passion or imagination, or if it had been well written or convincingly acted in any way at all, it might have been a loopy masterpiece. The montage of images at the beginning is interesting, as are some of the lush, hyper-real tableaux, like the dream sequences from Antichrist. Udo Kier has a nice cameo as a testy wedding organiser who finally refuses to look at the recalcitrant bride who has messed up his event.

But the wedding reception scene is nowhere near as good as Thomas Vinterberg's Festen (the obvious model): it is tedious and exasperatingly redundant. As for the approaching interplanetary disaster, this does not appear to affect the tides or the weather – there is just this big CGI planet hovering above – and it does not occur to anyone to turn on the TV and find out what's going on. Justine and Claire just carry on with the translated dialogue and the sedated acting, greeting Melancholia with glassy-eyed anxiety and mumbling resentment. Claire's husband, incidentally, is finally found face down in the stables: perhaps he has topped himself or just expired with boredom.

Once again, Von Trier has written and directed an entire film in his trademark smirk mode: a giggling aria of pretend pain and faux rapture. The script is clunking, and poor Dunst joins Nicole Kidman and Bryce Dallas Howard in the list of Hollywood females who have sleepwalked trustingly through a Von Trier production. Even the spectacle is thin and supercilious. Perhaps this movie is another symptom of the director's much-discussed depression, or a kind of therapy that involves transferring his depression to the audience. To whom I can only say: cheer up. Whatever happens to the world, this film does come to an end.

blot out : przesłaniać

blowhard : pewny siebie, gadatliwy

cameo : mała rola

CGI : computer-generated imagery- wizualizacja za pomocą techniki komputerowej

clunking : powolny, nieruchawy

clunky : nieruchawy

conceive : obmyśleć

convincingly : przekonująco

dawn : świtać

erupt : wybuchać

estranged : w separacji

exasperatingly : irytująco

extravaganza : fantazja; ekstrawagancja

facetious : niepoważny, żartobliwy

faux : sztuczny

hover : unosić się w powietrzu

loom : wyłaniać się

loopy : pomylony

lush : wybujały

manic depressive : osoba cierpiąca na zaburzenia maniakalno-depresyjne

rapture : zachwyt

recalcitrant : krnąbrny, nieposłuszny

redundant : zbędny

rogue : łajdacki

sedated : uśpiony

smirk : ironiczny, złośliwy

staggeringly : zdumiewająco

stateless : bezpaństwowy

supercilious : wyniosły

tableaux (l.poj.: tableau) : żywy obraz

torpid : odrętwiały, apatyczny

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