Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Melancholia

2011, 15, Directed by Lars Von Trier
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgard


If there’s one thing that will spring to mind when Danish director Lars Von Trier is mentioned, it will most probably be his silly remarks that got him thrown out of Cannes Film Festival; as if we didn’t know already, it turns out the bloke is as controversial and conversation-inducing as the films he crafts. Looking past this - and towards Melancholia, the film he was promoting at the time – and there should be no doubt in the mind that this same bloke is something else entirely. Beginning paradoxically with the end of the world (shown using obscure, chilling, yet beautiful images in extreme slow-motion) the film is split into two halves, both of which focus on two sisters. The first is Kirsten Dunst’s Justine, a not-too blushing bride who would much rather have a soak in the bath then cut the cake by the side of her groom. Von Trier does his best at merging family drama with social comedy, which all in all creates a crazily uneasy feeling. We track Justine constantly, all smiles in front of her guests and pure emotion behind closed doors. Snippets of dialogue enlighten us to a history of unpredictable behaviour from Justine who seems to be seen, but rarely heard despite her best efforts. As an audience, the entire half of the film could become an extremely alienating experience – let it be said that Justine could be construed as an ignorant livewire, but somehow Dunst grounds things, providing a form of perspective. The fact that this is just the precursor to her later appearance in the second half of the film speaks volumes, especially when considering she took home the Best Actress prize at the Festival where her director caused such furore.
This part of the film is dedicated to Claire played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who can only now be described as a Lars stalwart after that performance in Antichrist. Taking place after an undisclosed amount of time since the wedding, we bear witness to the changes that have occurred – perhaps most importantly the announcement of Melancholia, a newly-discovered planet which is rumoured to be heading directly for earth. A bizarre concept, but one that is tackled head on by all involved upholding rationality until the intentionally predictable climax; Kiefer Sutherland’s scientist husband  is convinced the planet is simply going to pass by, viewing the entire debacle as a ground-breaking experience. But an unspoken worry looms. Retrospectively, there is some difficulty when attempting to highlight what Von Trier is exactly commenting on - if whether Melancholia has a deeper symbolism (the auteur conceived the idea during a spell of depression, an idea relevant to the film).  But as the film reaches its inevitable endpoint, if you are still trying to piece together what you think is going on, it’s fearful you may have missed the mark completely. This is science fiction with technicalities ignored. It doesn’t matter why the world is coming to an end, it just matters that it will come to an end.  
Love it or hate it (it will either be one or the other), prepare to marvel at the wonderment Von Trier has achieved. Even if a non-converted, it will undoubtedly be a struggle not to become impressed with what has been achieved on a visual and humane level. Just don’t search for anything too subliminal.
4.5/5

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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Kill List

2011, 18, Directed by Ben Wheatley
Starring: Neil Maskell, Harry Simpson, MyAnna Buring, Emma Fryer

If there’s one thing that you should know about Kill List, it’s that knowing as little as possible is key. What can be said is that on the surface we follow two soldiers-turned-hitmen (Neil Maskell and Harry Simpson: both fantastic) who are handed a ‘kill list’, and so embark on one last job before turning clean. On the surface. For what this inventive British shocker actually is dissolves into an extreme workshop in genre-weaving. What you think you know, you basically don’t. Here, Ben Wheatley - director of the equally manipulative Down Terrace - issues a master-class in how to trick the watchful eyes of the audience, and ultimately how to gut-punch. It goes without saying that gruesome violence abounds (you’ll never view a hammer in the same way), but for all the viewers who can’t stand the sight of gore, through paying attention to the cleverly deployed narrative, it will be hard not to be impressed. The rational manner that Wheatley depicts life for Jay and Sam, not ignoring the equally as important wife of Jay (MyAnna Buring) and random girlfriend of Sean (Emma Fryer), ensures that later events prove that bit more disturbing and uneasy to view, not to mention captivating and inspiring - much like the films this homages (to even whisper these films would give the game away). Avoid Google and watch with immediacy; Kill List should earn a placement on your must-see list.
4/5

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