I Saw ‘Melancholia’ at a Packed Theater


21 November 2011| No Comments on I Saw ‘Melancholia’ at a Packed Theater     by Sean Chavel


Lars von Trier devotees. Art film aficionados. Academic junior philosophers. Industry people. Quasi-intellectuals and their empty shell girlfriends. Some film critics. But all of us… grown-ups. There must have been 500 of us. We were all ushered in plenty of time before the lights went down, enough for a trip to the bathroom and for the refreshment line.

But I think we were all there because “Melancholia” has been talked about for nearly the entire year, so it was a big deal. Collectively, I think we all agreed to this, unofficially but somehow still balloted in unspoken unison: We were to witness the boldest art film of the year, the performance of Cannes film festival best actress winner Kirsten Dunst, a film that guaranteed to break the rules, to squeeze outside of pigeon-holed genre, to be uncompromising, to be bold in its trajectory for tragedy… A grown-up film. A Lars von Trier film.

Yet even as the film logo came up and it began unreeling, there were grown-ups that behaved like children. For ten minutes, “Melancholia” begins with unprecedented visual poetry on-screen, quintessential von Trier, romanticized destruction that’s like a florid Disney film but for X-rated minded grown-ups looking for hot-button provocation – but all of it is without dialogue. This dialogue-less sequence therefore became an impetus for restlessness. Slow-pokes moseyed down the aisles to find their seats. Perhaps they couldn’t help it. But how about the rest? Rapacious bingers were still stumbling back with trays of popcorn and various snack goo. Then the fellow porkers saw this was an opportunity that since the snack line was dying down they should run to the refreshment counter like lemmings. Then there were the weak bladder cases that couldn’t wait that got up and made a sloppy dash run, noisily addling about. These are the ones who couldn’t decide to go before the picture started.

Without dialogue means that it’s just story establishment and the picture hasn’t really started, for most people, I guess. But for the people walking up and down the aisle and fidgeting in their seat were the ones that missed the biggest attraction in von Trier’s piece. Sure, it’s without words, but through the symbiosis of music and images, and the whole extravaganza of it, von Trier made it an Opera. Big, lush, horrifyingly beautiful. I was soaking this all in, but all the other bumblers distracted me from my enjoyment.

The lesson: If you know you’re going to “Melancholia” then try to pick a showtime when you think not many other people are going to be there. Sure, there are movies where you want to sit around a large audience, to enjoy it collectively together. But this is not one of those times.


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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