I remember the day I saw the first ad for the film “Melancholia.” Lars Von Trier is, in my humble opinion, the greatest living film director, and when I first read about his upcoming movie I waited in trembling anticipation for it to descend upon our fair city. Come it did, and already it is going away. “Melancholia” arrived at Village 8 Theater as a Louisville Exclusive film – films, often art or foreign films, which get an exclusive, and usually short, run at the theater. “Melancholia” will have its last showing in Louisville this Thursday evening, which means the clock is running out for those who have not yet beheld its majesty.
Viewing a Lars Von Trier film is something akin to a religious experience (sometimes literally; the protagonists of “Dancer in the Dark” and “Dogville” can both be interpreted as Christ figures, and “Antichrist” is a horrifying twist on the Garden of Eden myth). His films have a way of seeping into your mind and staying there; he has been known to manipulate his viewers’ experience using bizarre coloring (“The Element of Crime”), inventive music (“Dancer in the Dark”), extreme minimalism (“Dogville”), and intense, hypnotic slow motion shots (“Antichrist”). These films will change you, if you let them.
“Melancholia” is no different. Inspiration for the film came when Trier, who sees a therapist for his depression, was told that when under pressure, depressive people are generally calmer than others because they already expect bad things to happen. He explores this idea using an end-of-the-world scenario: the opening scene shows the total obliteration of Earth by a runaway planet. The film then shows the events leading up to this catastrophe focusing specifically on a family living in a huge estate apparently in the middle of nowhere: the depressive Justine (brilliantly portrayed by Kirstin Dunst), her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and Claire’s husband and son.
Those familiar with Trier’s work know not to expect this to be a disaster film, a la Roland Emmerich; this is a deep, slow-paced character study. It takes concentration and it takes patience; this is a film for the thinking mind, and the payoff is tremendous.
There are three more showings this week before it goes away: it only shows at 7:35 pm tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday. Do not miss this opportunity to see the latest work of a truly masterful filmmaker on the big screen.
Village 8 is located at 4014 Dutchman’s Lane.
Photo courtesy of the film’s official website.