Eat Your Heart Out, Harold Camping! The Trite Apocalypse Porn of Von Trier Is Anything But a Revelation

Ninety minutes with a droopy Dunst face makes one wonder how late the Rapture will actually be

21 Eat Your Heart Out, Harold Camping! The Trite Apocalypse Porn of Von Trier Is Anything But a Revelation

Melancholia.

The loopy indulgences of deluded Danish nut Lars von Trier, who recently declared himself a bona fide Nazi in publicity-grabbing world headlines, are no longer called films, they’re considered provocations—shunned by discerning audiences worldwide and embraced by only a small gaggle of clucking, pretentious critics and film festival filmgoers. Melancholia is his latest pile of undiluted drivel, nauseatingly filmed by a wonky hand-held camera and featuring a crazy, mismatched ensemble headed by Kirsten Dunst, who won an acting award in Cannes last year for looking totally catatonic.

It opens with a very long, unnecessary closeup of Ms. Dunst’s face looking ravaged, eyes at half-mast, which sustains the mood of deadly ennui for the next 135 minutes of torture. She is on her way to her own wedding reception with a dopey, submissive groom (woefully miscast TV vampire Alexander Skarsgard), but the plans are overshadowed by an unnamed planet that has dislodged itself from the solar system and is hurtling toward Earth in slow motion. If you’ve turned the page already, I don’t blame you.

The unspeakable disaster that follows drags on in two divided parts, named after a pair of estranged sisters named Justine and Claire. Justine (Ms. Dunst) is the mentally deranged, nymphomaniac bride, a depressed ad executive badly in need of an expense account in the nearest asylum. Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is the sane, pragmatic one who is throwing the hugely expensive wedding at her country estate replete with golf course, horse stables and a grumpy, exasperated husband (Kiefer Sutherland) with too much money and obscenely bad taste, located either on Long Island or somewhere near the palace of Versailles. Claire is a perfectionist who has planned the party down to the precise moment of cutting a storybook wedding cake that looks like something Leslie Caron danced on in The Glass Slipper. Stuck in a stretch limo, the newlyweds are two hours late, and Claire is ballistic, to the delight of her wasted, alcoholic father (John Hurt) and sadistic, poisonous ex-hippie mother (Charlotte Rampling), who wishes everyone nothing but misery. Hand-held cameras float around the room in a dizzying swirl, giving motion sickness new meaning. When it comes time for the Champagne toast, the crazy mother and the neurologically unhinged bride, who suffers from acute melancholia, both lock themselves in their rooms and soak in their bathtubs. When the moment finally arrives for the bride and groom to consummate their wedding night, Justine wanders out to the golf course and ravages the young man her boss has hired to watch her. She tells everybody off and quits her job, but before the sun comes up the groom packs his suitcase and disappears, muttering, “It could have been different.” So could the war in Iraq, but this is Lars von Trier, who gives Ms. Dunst her most bracing line: “What did you expect?”

But wait. This thing is not over. Somebody announces: “The red star’s missing from Scorpio!”—a fatal warning that the second half of the movie is about to begin. The killer planet is five days away and everybody talks about it—interminably. Now it’s the spinning planet that is called Melancholia. Don’t ask. Claire, who has wasted too much valuable time caring for her sister, tries to shock Justine back to sanity by baking a meat loaf. It doesn’t work. Justine says it tastes like ashes, and tries to beat her horse to death with a riding crop. After what really does feel like five days trapped in the dark while I mentally played word games to stay awake, the screen turned white. The errant planet has exploded and the end of the world has arrived, not a moment too soon. Nobody would believe Kristen Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as sisters even if their cradles were switched at birth. It’s just one of the mysteries in Melancholia. Allegory in which the planet and Justine’s mental breakdown are paralleled? Apocalyptic vision? A crazy director’s plummet to deranged surrealism? What, exactly, is the point? Only the director of a pile of crap that includes Dogma, Dancer in the Dark and Antichrist knows for sure, and even that is severely doubtful. Meanwhile, the critics who fill the quote ads for this dirge with words like “masterpiece” keep me manic with mirth. Wander into this idiocy and by the time it’s over, you’ll know the meaning of “melancholia” yourself.

rreed@observer.com

MELANCHOLIA

Running Time 136 minutes

Written by Lars von Trier

Directed by Lars von Trier

Starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland

0/4

Comments

  1. Morrrisseyfan89 says:

    Wow I suppose Rex Reed is really desperate for attention at this point.

  2. Jdennist says:

    Cough cough *Myra Breckinridge* cough cough

  3. rivera says:

    i’ve been looking for showtimes in NY all night, anyone knows where can i catch this? thanks

    1. samesong says:

      it’s available on itunes and on demand

  4. Minimalistic786 says:

    Is this a normal review? Worst, and I mean worst, review I have stomached.  Livin’ like a narcissist… avoid people who have emotions and think more highly of yourself.

  5. jamesb says:

    This is why Rex Reed is Rex m-fing Reed

  6. samesong says:

    I think you mean Dogville, not Dogma. Now that that’s settled, Melancholia is a beautiful, pretentious, messy, interesting film and deserves a better review. Throwing insults does not a review make. The only valid point you make here is that in no way can Dunst and Gainsbourg be siblings. 

  7. Rodney says:

    Ummmm…. Von Trier did NOT declare himself a Nazi at Cannes. He got carried away making a rambling joke.  The people present were laughing because they knew he wasn’t serious but was digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself. Kristin Dunst didn’t comprehend that he was rambling and joking and looked uncomfortable. It’s one thing for Rex Reid to not like a film but calling von Trier a Nazi is a bit desperate on his part. The press conference in Cannes where von Trier can be heard rambling can be found on you tube. Maybe Rex should track it down too…

  8. jason says:

    KIRSTEN DUNST. Not Kristen. For being a so called “top critic”, learn to spell the fucking lead actresses’ name correct. 

  9. JMc from Oz says:

    On ya, Rex!

  10. DVB says:

    So many contradictions, falsehoods and pretensions in this review that I lost count. You should be ashamed. Also, jut because you don’t want us to see a film doesn’t mean that you should tell us every plot spoiler.

  11. Thomas Werner says:

    Oh, Rex Reed. He did not declare himself a Nazi. Stupid, attention-seeking journalists (such as, well…) declared him a Nazi. He said he understood nazi aesthetics, hence his use of Wagner opera, that were adored by leading nazis.

    He did not direct Dogma. Dogma is a movie by Kevin Smith with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. He was one of the leading figures in the dogma movement though, the movement that brought us the masterpiece “The Celebration” and started a style still that widely influenced even the most mainstream Hollywood filmmakers in terms of editing technique, lighting and acting.

    Maybe if you hadn’t played number games in your head during the film (what kind of critic does that? only one with no respect for what he critizises, I guess) you would have understood what really isn’t that difficult to grasp: it’s a parable, a story of a woman with a depression, a deeply sad and troubled world view, with the one benefit of being able to cope with death and doom when it arrives. 

    This doesn’t mean you have to like the movie. You have every right to dislike a film that is not to your taste. But if you stopped writing on vile, hatred  and stupidity, maybe your name wouldn’t be used as often as an argument against free speech.

  12. Chris says:

    For all this talk about Trier making provocations… Mr. Reed, what exactly have you been building this review – and your career  -on, if not provocations? Surely it’s not insight or mastering the art of writing a review.

  13. VT says:

    Another stupid,self-obsessed and poisoned movie from the world’s most overrated director-the guy is crazy as hell so he should spend more time on therapy instead of making films like that.

  14. Stingo says:

    You are obviously redarded. And that is my review of YOU.

  15. JD Shippel says:

    What a horrible review. I don’t know why MetaCritic would include this…

  16. Sam Khoie says:

    I could see why people can’t like the film or even hate the film but this is really unfair review and only a crap sick critic could write it

  17. superflat says:

    Why does Rex Reed have a job? 

  18. Derek D says:

    Always baffles me how reviewers who write crap like this get jobs. This whole review bleeds “I don’t get it so I’m mad for it making me feel dumb”….maybe that isn’t the films fault. 

  19. Sara1221 says:

    Rex Reed forgot to drink his prune juice before writing this.

    Jesus, do you appreciate subtleties, Rex?! Or do you need to be hit over the head and/or be taken by the hand to show what’s in a movie?

  20. Guest says:

    This reviewer is a fucking idiot, pretty sure if Lars von trier was an actual nazi and became hitler 2.0 this dude would be the first to go. I hate nazis as much as the next guy but fuck this guy is scum.

  21. Paolo says:

    Is it me … or does anybody else think this is more of a personal attack against the Director, rather than a review – of what i think is – a gorgeous film.

  22. awen1q3t says:

    This review is silly. I mean, I get that “Melancholia” is definitely not for everyone. But this review takes the perspective of a five-year-old and the vocabulary of a grown man.

    But first, this review needs a fact check:
    Lars Von Trier did not direct Dogma. Dogma was a hilarious comedy and Von Trier would never direct something so funny (at least from what I’ve seen).

    Also, Von Trier’s Hitler comment is being overblown. He should not have been banned from Cannes like he was. All he said was that he “understood” how Hitler felt. He did NOT say he was a Nazi or a Neo-Nazi or anything. The whole entire film industry (actually, the business of art) is to relate to people, to tell their stories.

    And as for Reed’s actual opinion of the movie? 0/4! Really? It should get at least a 2/4 purely on the artistic talents that were put into the movie- the cinematography was amazing. The intro, the most engrossing part of the movie, is just a collage of slow moving pictures set to the Tristan and Isolde Overture.

    And as for the point of the movie? I didn’t write the script but this much at least seems obvious: Justine’s depression is viewed in different lights from part one of the movie and part two, when people discover that the apocalypse is near. From there, one might realize that the film is actually about how different personalities struggle with the apocalypse and finding meaning in it all (or lack of meaning). Two dichotomies: the sisters are completely different, and two parts of the movie (pre-apocalypse and apocalypse).

    Rex Reed clearly has neglected his duty as a film reviewer by not even considering the ideas in this film, which weren’t all that elusive in the first place.

  23. Jrichburg says:

    Amen, Rex.  I support you in calling out this depresssion chic dogma that insists that if a book or film is about depressed people, it’s unquestionably high art.  Bull.   

  24. J manzo says:

    You reviewed Lars von Trier as a person and gave a summary of the movie. You obviously have a problem with von Trier because you mention his nazi incident in the first sentence. Lars may be a bigot, but the thing is is that you are supposed to be unbiased and review the film, which you didn’t even do.

  25. Vintagelana19 says:

    Wow, this is horribly written.

  26. “Only the director of a pile of crap that includes …”

    Classy.

    Is this writer 12 years old? Or 112?

    NYO’s editors need to stage an intervention. It’s cruel to allow Mr. Reed to continue soiling himself in public, in print.

  27. James Leola says:

    Obviously you meant ‘Dogville’. Still, thanks Mr. Reed, for swimming against the tide. You do a service to film criticism. All the best to you, sir. 

  28. Taj says:

    I totally agree, this was an idiotic movie.  A downer, to say the least . I wish the explosion came about two hours earlier. 

  29. James Gass says:

    Rex your an idiot

  30. James Gass says:

    One of the only online articles I’ve seen with a comment section that is more well written.

  31. Daveyboi11 says:

    Yeah, Dogma….not the greatest movie, definitely a little pretentious throughout.  Also most definitely not a Lars von Trier film, but a Kevin Smith film.  Both directors do seem to have a flare for coming off as a bit self important, that is agreed.  However, to completely disregard the artistry of von Trier here and in the other films that are actually his (who edits your articles, Jesus!), is complete horse shit and you know it.  The cinematography, acting, and direction are all worthy of much praise, certainly more than you have displayed in this completely misguided review.  This is not your best work here, Rex.

  32. Adunn says:

    you IDIOT! von trier definitely did not direct dogma. he started the dogma 95 movement, which any quick trip to wikipedia could tell you was a film movement that stressed a return to the basics of storytelling without a lot of special effects. (though melancholia might break that rule.)

  33. Peter DeWitt says:

    Honestly, whoever employs this shameless, spiteful, shallow, talent-envious, malicious, inattentive, clumsy, backward, soul-dead, egotistical piece of SHIT should read some of these comments, assess the glaring factual errors and overall complete lack of integrity, and HOOK this fat, ignorant, cackling pseudo-hip over the hill demitard off the journalistic stage so fast we can watch his shiny gold scarf drift slowly to the boards during the succeeding twenty seconds.  I’m serious.  Fire him.

  34. Red Panda says:

    Ah, Rex Reed.  I do remember you as one of the few sad people walking out of the movie.  I was shaking my head while I watch these people on the walk of shame.

  35. Jj2780 says:

    Rex Reed, you’re a moron.

  36. leafnosed says:

    Is this some sort of shtick? This ignorant, violent rant? I’ve never read a critic who had so little understanding of what artists do.

  37. Green4sd says:

    Please retire Rex. You’ve been passed by. If you don’t like the movie fine, but your review has factual errors that render your opinion worthless.

  38. chris says:

    So is the reviewer getting PAID for this? Wow.

  39. Safd says:

    Can’t believe this dumb ass is still writing crap…

  40. weike1234 says:

    i completely agree. melancholia sucked and this review was a piece of art. 
    thank you

  41. Anonymous says:

    Just a  LITTLE pretentious???? Hah, hah

  42. bob cooley says:

    Seriously?  Reed confuses Von Trier’s (and Thomas Vinterberg’s)  film movement – Dogme 95  which isn’t a film, but a set of practical rules for filmmaking without Hollywood budgets, with the film Dogma (directed by Kevin Smith). ” nymphomaniac”? and other references that are clear indications of chronic depression –  Someone who has no understanding of severe depression or anxiety (or cinematic movements ) should probably avoid writing about any of them. 

  43. Helga Pataki says:

    I couldn’t have put it better myself, Rex! Without a doubt the most nauseatingly filmed dross since “Paranormal Activity”!

  44. Anthony Dodd says:

    The story is about a woman (Lars Von Trier) who can see things (make movies about ideas).  What Dunst ‘sees’ is that may she (Lars Von Trier) can say and do crazy things sometimes, but the world is full of miserable people who work too hard to understand what love is and so — let them die.

    That’s all this movie says.  And not in a way that makes this readily apparent. Or at all powerful.

    BREAKING THE WAVES was genius.  It’s been self indulgent drivel ever since.

  45. NormalFuckingPerson says:

    Agreed. Good review.

  46. Ruben says:

    This review nailed it.

    I’m just a
    little disappointed the critic didn’t write anything about the scene where
    Kirsten Dunst offers her nude self up to the planet. Whackjob!

    7 people left the cinema up to one and a half hours before the end. The old guy next to me fell asleep only to be jerked back to life when the music suddenly set in.

  47. Ipattorney says:

    Worst movie I’ve seen in years. What a pile of self-indulgent crap.  Can I please my life back after watching this flusher of a movie? The only people who could possibly like this are pompous pseudo intellectuals and liberals.

  48. Tuscanmagic says:

    Thank you, Mr. Reed, for telling the truth about this vain, pretentious twaddle. The movie is a short film stretched to the breaking point. Kirsten Dunst is awful in it. She is one of the worst actresses working today, and, as an actress, she has one expression: ennui, and she can hardly pull that off. The director seems to think he’s an energetic thinker, but there were more ideas in this year’s other apocalypse movie, “Another Earth.” as for Kiefer Sutherland, how does that lemon keep working?

  49. Pikoline Jensen says:

    Was that even a review? You just kind of told the story in your own demeaning words.

    That is not really how a review works. What you just did is called a summary..

    If you could at least present sound arguments for giving a movie 0 out of 4.. If only.. But you couldn’t. That is.. well.. actually quite childish.. 

    Well. You won’t read this comment. If you read the comments, you would have fixed the factual mistakes in your review as pinpointed by Thomas Werner.

  50. John K. says:

    Reed’s sarcastic tone and liberal use of slang does nothing to endear himself as a movie critic. This is a childish review that reads like a smear from anywho on a message board.  I detect a pre-existing grudge with the director. Don’t like the film? Fine. Now be a grown-up as to why.

    I’d never heard of the director before seeing this film, and I thought it was hugely ambitious and a couple beats shy of a masterpiece. It’s an art film and not for everyone; viewers can always go re-rent Armageddon, after all.

  51. Thiller says:

    How is Justine a “nymphomaniac”? Someone who acts out sexually once is considered a nymphomaniac?

    Moreover, you definitely demonstrate your ignorance when you just kind of shrug your shoulders and say “what’s the point.”  People will be writing essays about this movie for years to come—the wedding scene is so ripe with psychological commentary

    For example it’s pretty clear to me that each character in the wedding reception scene represents a kind of existential coping mechanism—romantic love (the groom); money (sutherland and the boss); power and ego (the boss); substance (the father) etc. etc….

    if your criticism is you don’t like the film—fine…but this film is dripping with layers of meaning.

  52. rob says:

    Your factual errors discredit this entire review. How are the rabid opinions of a maniac such as yourself held in such high regard?

  53. Anonymous says:

    This “review” looks more like a retailing of the movie made by an old pretentious hag.
    If all they require for a critic to do is re-write the whole plot with wanna-be witty comments along the lines, while making mention of other films just to make sure people think you are a connoisseur of this art medium, than I guess anyone with access to google can do it.

    “This, this and that… horsecrap!”

    And by the way, von Trier’s film this “critic” mentioned isn’t Dogma. It’s Dogville, part of the “U.S. Land of Opportunities” trilogy, which includes Manderlay and a third movie yet to be released.

  54. Piece_of_crap_movie says:

    SPOT ON!
    i’ve been looking thru all the reviews after watching the movie and this is the only one that calls it AS IT IS!

    i congratulate you Rex Reed for having the BALLS that are missing in all the other reviewers…

    as other comments suggested, you only missed the part where kirsten dunst shows her nude body in a far away shot and then the boobs close up…. i belive 90% of the good reviews are biased (and probably even the judges that said she was “best actress”) by the BOOB factor… seriously, this movie is a piece of crap, people LEFT the cinema and were demanding their money back at the entrance….

    sitting thru it was like being in hell, i wish this fate nor this movie to ANYONE….

    go back to your psicologist Lars von Trier, and tell him to force you to never release a movie ever again…

  55. Jarodrebuck says:

    Spot on review.

  56. Jarodrebuck says:

    Spot on review.

  57. Jarod says:

    Spot on review.

  58. Jarod says:

    Spot on review.

  59. Allison9 says:

    Rex Reed has no  business reviewing movies at all anymore.  He is a clueless asshole. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but to dismiss this film as “drivel” just shows how out of touch he is. He needs to retire and the Observer needs to hire a real movie critic. And oh yes, by the way her name is KIRsten and no, Lars Von Trier never “declared himself a Nazi”.

  60. Anonymous says:

    I see this reviewer caught onto some “subtle” cues in the movie. Yes, Kirsten Dunst’s character isn’t quite “normal”. There is something wrong with her. She IS quite different from her sister, good job catching onto that too. You’re some sort of idiot savant, Rex Reed.

    Thank god this movie was made. I’m so glad it left some people mad and confused. A movie like this comes out maybe once a decade. Don’t worry, soon enough they’ll release some piece of crap about an “important subject” that’s “realistic” but with a non-threatening plot and ending and it will win an Oscar and you will be able to review it and all will be well again. 

  61. la_bibliovore says:

    Wow, this was excessively harsh. I thought the film was beautiful–even though I was naseous toward the end from all the hand-held camera movement. What a breath of fresh air to have the end of the world happen to a single family–not the usual destruction of an entire city and a superhero trying to save the day. A visually spectacular film that explores universal themes of depression, hopelessness…a depressing film but as Kirsten says to her husband as he leaves “what did you expect?”

  62. Anonymous says:

    People should not read Rex Reed’s reviews if they don’t expect strong opinions. That’s what the man is about. I quite liked the film but I enjoyed the review even more. It’s so hard to find a good old-fashioned bitchy viewpoint. Love it.

    1. leafnosed says:

      Even a Rex Reed has to conform to basic journalistic standards. Even a Rex Reed has to get his facts straight and make an honest effort to understand the movie he’s reviewing.

    2. leafnosed says:

      And even a Rex Reed has to write like an adult.

  63. Gasphard says:

    couldn’t wait for the planets to collide so I could go home

  64. Mark Caplan says:

    “Justine wanders out to the golf course and ravages the young man her boss has hired to watch her. ”
    Reed forgot to mention that the young man grounded his club in the sand trap — a 2-stroke penalty. Otherwise, an excellent review.

  65. MoviesMoviesMovies says:

    He directed Dogville you dumb fuck

  66. Guest says:

    So, in order to be a “Top Critic,” you basically have to be extremely biased before seeing the movie, get facts wrong about the movie (K-I-rsten, not Kristen; von Trier directed “Dogville” and not “Dogma”), and just explain the entire plot of the movie (as proof that he actually saw it, I guess).

    This is a horribly written review at best. He said that Melancholia is “embraced by only a small gaggle of clucking, pretentious critics and film festival filmgoers.” I guess that means that 78% of critics on rottentomatoes (including Roger Ebert, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, and others) are pretentious. However, when we look at it, he is the ONLY “Top Critic” to give it zero stars meaning that Rex Reed is, according to Rex Reed, the only one that is right about the movie.

    I try not to jump aboard the Rex Reed-hating bandwagon, but I wouldn’t have to if he wasn’t asking for it/made it so easy. I will conclude this with a quote from The Simpsons that is actually quite fitting:

    Homer: I have every right to be on that jury, even though I got there because I’m sleeping with the head of the festival.
    Jay: How many times have I heard Rex Reed say that?