LARS VON TRIER –
MELANCHOLIA – 2011
Don’t believe the title. There is
no melancholia in this woman on the front page. Don’t believe the Ophelia
looking front page with Justine floating in water in her wedding dress holding
lily-in-the-valley, a whole bunch of them. There is no Ophelia, no suicide by
drowning and no flowers floating on top of the water. Justine is not going to
go to a nunnery, the nunnery of the dead, at least not what Hamlet and
Shakespeare had in mind.
You will discover as soon as you
get into the film beyond the title page that we are dealing with the end of the
world set in parallel with the end of celibacy for Justine. She cannot accept her
personal perspective because of what has been announced and is coming: the
planet Melancholia is going to ram into the Earth. There cannot be any
enjoyment while it lasts because lasting should mean there is no end decreed
even before it starts, and obviously there is an imminent announced foreseen end.
So the little (though super rich,
but the richer the more little) people at that wedding reveal how little they
can be while they are forgetting it is one of their very last days.
The mother is obnoxious and
ridiculously anti-marriage and anti-husband, particularly hostile to her
ex-husband that refused to be dominated into silence.
The father is secretive, more
than strange and absolutely selfish meaning he is not able to think beyond his
own mental limits and they are quite narrow.
The sister Claire is the only
sane person and yet she will yield to insanity when the end is coming. Sane
people are only behaving like sane people, as sane people, but as soon as
conditions get insane they are also getting insane because they are just
copying what is normal at any time in their society. And yet at the last minute
just before Melancholia crashes into the Earth she will get back to some sane
peace and quiet, thanks to her own sister, Aunt Steelbreaker.
Claire’s husband, John, is
entirely preaching what he knows is not true. He knows there is a margin of
error in any calculation and that his own calculations that make Melancholia
fly by have a fair chance to be wrong especially since everyone else or nearly
says it will crash into the Earth. Actually he is a coward who will see before
others the imminent ending and will steal his own wife’s poison to leave life
before the meeting of the two planets.
Justine’s newly-wed husband
Michael is just a non-entity who loves, in fact desires, Justine and leaves her
as soon as he understands she is beyond domination. For him love is submission
both ways except that the husband only submits for his own pleasure and
enjoyment. And he has little more to say.
I won’t say anything about
Justine’s boss: he is the biggest business non-imaginative non-entity that I
hope you will never have to come across in life and after life.
So we are back with Justine,
depressed by what is coming, always depressed because of a domineering and vain
mother who hated anyone but herself and deserted her daughters to only come
back once in a while to insult them. She is also depressed because of the
evanescent and always absent father who cannot even find five minutes to have a
personal word with his daughter on her wedding day. And she is the creative one
who will be able to invent some fable about a magic cave that will create peace
and bring quiet to her nephew Leo, her sister Claire and herself for the last
fifteen minutes of their life.
We are back with Claire who is
the sound and safe one in life but also the realist in danger and in a crisis,
which makes her buy some poison before the end if it has to come to an end.
Like all these people who have their feet well anchored in and not on the earth
she is not able to face a real existential crisis in her own life but she is
the best empathetic help anyone can find in their own existential crises. And
when the end comes it is the sound sister that needs the help of the depressive
And we have Leo, Claire’s son and
Justine’s nephew. He is a child, innocent and gullible, afraid of nothing
because he has never seen death and suffering and torturing and cruelty face to
face, one on one, in personal
confrontation. When such an event comes he is curious to see it and he believes
the soft and smoothening tale of his aunt, Aunt Steelbreaker, who makes him
build the skeleton of an Indian Tepee and makes him accept this is a magic cave
in which no danger can reach him or anyone with him and he closes his eyes and
finds the peace necessary to reach the end of the road without the slightest jolt.
He is hypnotized in a way, one of Mars von
Trier’s favorite device.
When I have said that I have said
nothing about the meaning of the film. I have simply repeated, summarize, given
a gloss of the factual surface of the film, nothing but spoilers. But what is
Here we come across Lars von
Trier who has forgotten his provocative and absurd dictum and pronunciamento in
his Vow of Chastity that was nothing but a dogmatic fundamentalistic Dogma 95.
Everything in this film is fake, unreal, artificial, using all sorts of
artifices and special effects including the special effects of the story itself
that is supposed to blind the audience and make them believe we are dealing
with normal though completely berserk people but berserk because the circumstances
are exceptional. And what is so exceptional in it?
In 2011 when the world was
falling head first in the worst financial crisis since 1929 (that brought
Hitler and the Nazis Lars Von Trier loves-hates so much), when the first signs
of the debt crisis in Europe were appearing, when the leadership of the USA was
at stake everywhere in the world from China to Iraq with the economic defeat in
front of the BRICS and with the military defeat in the Middle East, when
nothing was improving and everything was getting worse, he came up with the
fable of a cosmic end to the Earth and humanity. To make sure we get the
message he does not even look at this cosmic destruction from the point of view
of more than four people, first by wrapping up some gathering of the super rich
in a wedding party that is a total failure but we can always enjoy the wedding
cake and forget about the cosmic end coming soon. And then when we cannot avoid
that moment we are locked up in a group of four people, cut from the rest of the
world with no telephone, no electricity, no means of communication, no servant
even, nothing, all alone.
A crisis of that type cannot in
our world be experienced like that. It would necessarily be experienced as a
collective drama, a collective panic, a collective epiphany, maybe even a
collective salvation. But there is no reference to the billions of people on
the Earth, no reference to any ideology, be it religious or non-religious,
philosophical or secular, artistic even or poetic, with hardly ten seconds on
Google or some Bling like that for some opportunistic info given to us the
audience about this Melancholia.
We are manipulated in cold blood
and we are not even in any way pushed towards some personal empathy for anyone
in the tale, except maybe the horses. The medium is the message and the message
is the massage. Good morning, Vietnam,
straight from MacLuhan’s Global Village on Epsilon One Billion, or is it
Antares in Scorpius?
Then what is left in that waste
land of human desolation? The obsession of death that Lars von Trier cultivates
with gusto! His obsession about some kind of catastrophe brought by some kind
of agent. Since all man-made catastrophes have failed to produce this end of
humanity Lars von Trier wishes with all his heart and not the slightest part of
his mind, then he has to come to some more drastic means and that is to use the
cosmos as God almighty punishing humanity for its vanity, its cruelty, its
absurdity, its folly and insanity.
In other words that film is
morbid and is supposed to make us think that there is no hope whatsoever as
long as humanity exists. Of course he knows that there is no other life like
ours in the cosmos and that our end would not be that drastic for the universe:
“The Earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it. Nobody will miss it… When I
say we’re alone, we’re alone. Life is only on Earth and not for long,” says
Justine. It’s obvious when humanity is destroyed no human being will feel sorry
for it. How could they since they will be reduced to cosmic dust and powder and
back to the super black hole of the big Bang. Good riddance!
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU