With the release of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life rapidly approaching, 2011 seems to be quickly becoming a year for the existential-meets-apocolyptic-nature film. There are two definite points of interest with this new release: the films brilliant yet controversial director, Lars von Trier, and the random yet perfect choices in casting.
First you must start off with the von Trier’s body of work. While eclectic, one must always start with one of his most famous pieces of work, Dogville, for a beginner course in the work of the Danish filmmaker. Staring Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany, this unusual film feels more like a play than anything. To read the screenplay, one would be unexpectedly surprised how normal it would read; your typical dysfunctional small-town drama.
What is unique is von Trier’s realization of the script, in that the whole setting takes place on a blank black stage with no set pieces, rather just tape on the ground marking off roads and buildings. This creates interested effects. You may be watching a simple dialogue between two people in a house, but since there is no real wall the audience is left to see other townspeople walking in the street and even into other houses while the scene takes place. Point being, not your average direction.
While the cast of Melancholia may feel like a bad game of “6 Degrees of Separation”, upon further thought actually seems like a carefully planned out ensemble. First there is Kirsten Dunst, who most people have assumed has a slowly dwindling career after being killed off the Spiderman franchise, is actually perfectly poised to redeem herself in the right role. Remember, she was surprisingly decent in Eternal Sunshine.
Then there is Charlotte Gainsbourg, who despite currently having a larger music resume than film reel actually is quite a decent and natural actress, as evident in Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep. Then of course you have Kiefer Sutherland, who I’m still not sure how he convinced his agent to let him do a real film, but who I do trust to give a decent performance under the right direction.
So far, the only disappointing aspect of his film is that it has no release date except a screening at Cannes. Until then, watch the trailer again. It’s worth it. Check it out after the break.