The Great Hollywood Swindle

The magic of movies is that one film can reach some, while merely frustrating others. For example, a fellow critic preferred "Melancholia" to my favorite film of last year, "The Tree of Life." I found this surprising, because Melancholia, an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world, fatalistic drama, is the gloomiest movie I've ever seen. At one point its star, Kirsten Dunst, in her passive acceptance of our planet's doom, states, "The earth is evil ... it won't be missed." My friend appreciated the film's depiction of someone suffering from extreme depression, whereas I found its message less than profound because it offered no hope.

As with Terrance Mallick's The Tree of Life, Melancholia is deliberately paced, resonant in its imagery and contemplative. Unlike The Tree of Life, which examines questions concerning God and the afterlife, Melancholia's writer/director, Lars von Trier, avoids any such topics. His characters are decadent, self-absorbed and lost -- so devoid of spirituality they can't even find it within to pray as earth faces destruction. But, as I say, she got something out of it, despite its hopelessness.

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