In a moment of characteristic modesty
during an interview with the UK’s Daily Mail, Danish filmmaker
Lars von Trier declared himself to be the greatest director in the
world. Which, from a strictly stylistic standpoint, he may well be. If
only it weren’t for his interminable dialogue, increasingly irritating
penchant for self-indulgence and the wilful, wearying ugliness of his
themes and principal characters, most of whom play like cardboard
cutouts of tiresome Freudian archetypes rather than real people.
The follow-up to 2009s harrowing
Antichrist, von Trier’s latest outing is once more a study in
contradictions: artful yet joyless, stunningly shot yet unrelentingly
bleak, a paean to blackness of mind with little hope of redemption or
relief. With the end of the world imminent due to an impending
planetary collision, a group of mostly misanthropic yuppies gather at
the luxurious country estate of John (Kiefer Sutherland) and Claire
(Charlotte Gainsbourg) to celebrate the wedding of Claire’s unstable
waif of a sister (Kirstin Dunst, who won the 2011 Cannes Film Festival
Award for Best Actress) and her long-suffering beau Michael (True
Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård).
Unaware of the astronomical calamity that’s
about to unfold the guests largely content themselves with petty
squabbles, except for Claire and Justine’s curmudgeonly mother
(Charlotte Rampling) who takes every available opportunity to ensure
everyone else is as hate-filled as she is, a mission which includes
making what must surely qualify as the worst wedding speech in cinematic
history. There’s a bit of infidelity, a lot of gratuitous vitriol and
no small amount of convincingly enacted mental illness courtesy of the
semi-catatonic Dunst. And then the world ends.
Mr von Trier, we get it: you’re depressed.
You despise the world and everything in it. In the words of Richard
Pryor, have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up. Better yet, start
a course of Prozac and stop trying to make the rest of us miserable as a
way of compensating for your own incomparably cheerless worldview.
Skarsgård is in top form here, expertly crafting the film’s only
remotely sympathetic character, and Gainsbourg once again gives her all
for the director with whom she will reportedly be working with once more
on his forthcoming Nymphomaniac. But the odd beautiful slow
motion sequence aside, this is an empty shell of a picture that no
amount of clever visuals could ever hope to rescue.
For those who long for additional insight
into the tortured realm of von Trier’s mind and method, this Blu-ray
edition includes a Director’s Commentary, as well as a four-part
Making Of Featurette, Interviews with Cast and Crew,
Trailers and more. As for me, I think I’m done once and for all
with this sad-sack Dane and his grim excursions into the abyss of human