Happy Makes Me a Modern Girl

I did take an animating break! And I went to the movies! And I saw the newest Lars von Trier film Melancholia! Melancholia maybe shouldn't have an exclamation point after it though it being an ancient humor associated with depression and also the name of the planet (hiding behind the sun?) that could potentially destroy all life on earth that is discovered in this film. I went into this film knowing very little about it, other than about von Trier's gross display of enfant terrible-ism (I've never, ever used that phrase but it seems like it was coined with von Trier in mind!) at Cannes (where Kirsten Dunst also won something for her lackluster performance in this film) so I had no expectations at all.

The opening of Melancholia is one of the most beautiful cinematic displays I have ever seen. I am not sure how it was shot (I think it was one of those hi-def digital cameras that shoots a bazillion frames per second which was then slowed down to an almost imperceptible movement, maybe even tracked or shot in stereoscope somehow? making the shots have this bizarre movement and depth even in their stillness...it could also just be a lot of computers! who knows!) but images of a looming, oozing destruction slowly flicker out setting you up for the rest of the film which is broken into two sections about a few intense days between the lives of two sisters, Justine (Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg- who is incredible in this movie!).

Each sister represents a different way of life: one is struggling with a deep depression, tending to favor a more immediate side of things (peeing on a golf course in the middle of her wedding, changing the images of modern art books on the walls for pictures of folk art and primitive cave drawings), living in a fog of unreal sadness while the other sister maintains a life full of manufactured frivolities, her days consumed by making things "nice" (taking an extra moment to pick out a chocolate to adorn a pillow, planning a highly scheduled wedding no one really wants), actively destracting herself from any sort of reality.

As an audience we watch the latters life unravel because of the impending doom brought on by the approaching rogue planet and the former easily accept her potentially ill fated future. I don't know what von Trier wanted to say with this film.  I kept feeling like there was something on the tip of the films tongue, wanting to issue forth some nihilistic manifesto or a compassionate hug- but it never quite got there? Maybe he wanted to show us that whether we have everything or feel like we have nothing we all meet the same end and that the true connections between people- the love, the compassion, the caring (not just in the form of presents or things)- is what matters? In the end the film left me sort of idolizing the primitive, wanting to make scientific instruments out of sticks like a little boy in the film does, but I can't help but feel unease that this feeling was brought on by one of the most highly contrived, distracting, unreal things we have created as a cultured society- a film. But possibly, that is what von Trier wanted to say, and is constantly saying: it is feelings (even those towards the film or the film's director) that make us human and these feelings are something so foreign to the natural world that life within these feelings can never be real but our actions (even in the form of filmmaking and most definitely in terms of survival) can keep us going until nature takes over and we are actually gone. (Photos of the PA sky)



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.