Middle-aged angst has paid off well: Melancholia

Almond-eyed ad rep Justine (Kirsten Dunst) turns into the white-winged dove of Stevie Nicks’ fantasies when Earth’s imminent collision with an undiscovered blue planet threatens her marriage to a colorless hunk (Alexander Skarsgard). Writer-director Lars Von Trier, whose fetish for sadism is surpassed only by Michael Haneke, keeps the film light by keeping one hooded eye fastened on the ch-ichi cinema chic of early sixties Antonioni. The “Justine” chapter’s assured tone and pace almost compensated for risible ideas that (a) only Von Trier could conceive (Justine’s boss asking her to think of taglines on a wedding night. REALLY?!); and (b) only a male director can conceive (e.g. Justine can release her existential angst only by fucking on a golf course and acting like Kirsten Dunst).

Still, I don’t get the complaints about Dunst; she’s an actress excellent at projecting sensuality, as avid here as she was playing a cipher devouring pink cookies in Marie Antoinette and a hellion in the crazy/underrated Crazy/Beautiful. Melancholia‘s first hour, despite uncertain command of demotic English and a hard-on for angst incarnated by mom Charlotte Rampling’s toast (you don’t need to hear a word to know she’s going to say something catty; that’s why Von Trier cast her) represents Von Trier’s best work since the late nineties. His camera knows how long to let each scene at that wedding linger. Charlotte Gainsborough is the rotten egg here; with this and I’m Not There she’s cornered the market on bourgeois sourness. On the other hand, may Keifer Sutherland play bourgeois sourness for the rest of his life; it’s what his raspy voice is for. Otherwise as far as apocalyptic dramas go I prefer Take Shelter.

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