Review: Melancholia

December 13th, 2020

Despite having great movies that I could either watch again or see for the first time, I decided to watch “Melancholia” from 2011. I did so based solely on the advice of a podcast I was barely listening to while either eating dinner or doing dishes. “Melancholia” is Lars von Trier’s too long exploitation of good actors and bad taste. One of the more fashionable movies that are either well-made garbage or of the “it keeps getting worse” genre. Pick two.

“Melancholia” stars Kirsten Dunst alongside other quite talented actors like Charlotte Gainsbourg and John Hurt in a wedding/apocalypse film. Charlotte Rampling makes an appearance as well, pointlessly cast as a bitter mother dispensing sad-trombones all over her daughter’s wedding. Rampling also starred in the equally ridiculous “Swimming Pool” from 2003, which I saw in Boston while on tour in a punk band. “Swimming Pool” was an exploitation film disguised as an annoying-kid-turned-murderer movie, while, just kidding, it was all a joke. My hosts in Boston said we should rather see “Whale Rider”, an outstanding movie I’d eventually see nearly two decades later.

So what’s the point of “Melancholia”? Great actors moping around. The film opens with some arty shots then cuts to pointless vignettes of Dunst’s wedding. Everyone is mean, Dunst is erratic and hopeless. The reception is gorgeous and expensive yet everyone finds ways to be condescending. That’s the hour of “part one”. “Part two” is a lead up to apocalypse, masterfully acted but poorly constrained by Kiefer Sutherland’s character, Gainsbourg’s husband and scold. Sutherland is filthy rich despite being some kind of astronomer. Swimming in cash, those.

Worst of all, “Melancholia” has a constant camera shake. I suppose the hope is that you’re too nauseous to realize how much of your life you’re wasting.

While accurately portraying depression, there’s no anchor in a movie of privileged misery. If there’s nothing to figure out, no character to sympathize with, what’s the point? Beautiful crap is still crap. A far better movie is Jeff Nicols’s “Take Shelter” from the same year.

Should you wish to subject yourself to “Melancholia”, it’s available currently at

$Id: melancholia 597 2020-12-13 22:42:32Z x $

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