Part of me doesn’t want to tell you that “Melancholia” is a movie about the end of the world. Chances are you’ll groan and stop reading. Maybe you’re right, because “Melancholia”, directed by controversial director Lars Von Trier, wouldn’t appeal to an audience seeking something fast paced or even action packed. Von Trier followers on the other hand will know exactly what they’re in for, and (if I’m not mistaken) will be more than pleased with what the movie has to offer. I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of his work (I thought “Antichrist” was painful to watch), and I wasn’t exactly thrilled by his “Melancholia”. It’s a film I respect for sure, even though I found it very tough to sit through. That’s because Von Trier creates a palpable sense of unease—which is exactly what he sets out to do. To be completely fair though, the movie opens with a bang: the prologue blasts out Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde at top volume over a series of beautiful, surreal tableaux. Those wonderful images set out the tone to the sort of things we will be seeing and feeling over the next two hours. It’s a brilliant opening, unique, gorgeous, and almost dream-like (I wonder if he was inspired by Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”). But where the movie goes next is somehow disappointing. I shouldn’t reveal much; suffice to say that the first rate cast (which includes Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland) make the movie memorable and uncomfortable at the same time.
I admire “Melancholia” a lot, which unfolds at a deliberately slow pace, but I can’t say I fully enjoyed it. One question was running through my mind the entire time: what does it all mean? To be honest, I’m not really sure. But I can tell you that at some point, I felt a great deal of compassion for the characters (keep in mind, this isn’t “Armageddon” or “Deep Impact”), and the climax sent shiver down my spine. If only the rest of the movie felt as brilliant and absorbing as its opening and closing scene. Too bad.