Sunday, January 15, 2012

Best Films of 2011

1. Melancholia
Lars Von Trier didn't do this sublime masterwork any favors by
running his mouth at Cannes. During the press conference for his film, he said he sympathized with and understood Hitler and finished it off with "I'm a Nazi." Whether he was joking or dug himself a hole and couldn't stop is irrelevant. From this moment forward, his film was stigmatized. The public mostly brushed it aside. Some critics praised it, others couldn't tolerate it. I think it's the best film of the year.

Beginning with the cataclysmic introduction set to Wagner's prelude from Act I from
Tristan und Isolde, the film, much like Hitchcock's Vertigo, welds music to visuals to themes at a relentless pace. In fact, I'd argue that knowing Tristan is the key to the film. In one scene, Justine, an excellent Kirsten Dunst, lays on the banks of a creek and bathes
in the blue light emanating from the approaching planet. She is nude. She touches her skin. It's made clear that she's deriving sexual pleasure from seeing impending death. Similarly, in Tristan, erotic desire is equated with the desire to die. In Act II, day and light (desire/pain) is what separates the lovers and only in darkness and night (love/sex/dissolution/death) can they be united. It's not only the desire for night (where they can be together), it's a desire for night (death). In death they can be together forever and the pain of life could never part them. This Schopenhauerian denial of the world (Welt) is the bleakest and most vital element in Tristan. (If Tristan's music and singing wouldn't be as gorgeous as they are, it would be merely nihilistic.) In Melancholia, Justine is so consumed by her depression that her impulse to die becomes pleasurable and desirable.

The film, divided in two parts and named for the sisters Justine and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg, terrific), divulges its method for achieving self-annihilation in each section. The first part deals with Justine's disastrous wedding reception and her crippling depression. The second deals with the approaching planet named Melancholia. Justine's own melancholia is shown to be all-consuming and thoroughly destructive. The planet Melancholia will achieve the same effect. Von Trier shows us what happens to a person suffering from acute depression and then gives us a metaphor for how it feels.

It is rare for a movie to achieve this type of balance. The flawless technical and on-camera achievements create a radical synthesis that delivers an intellectual and emotional wallop. If only Von Trier had kept quiet.

2. The Artist

3. Drive

4. The Descendants

5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

6. Midnight in Paris

7. Bridesmaids

8. Rango

9. Hugo

10. La Piel Que Habito


Isaura @titiluni said...

Gracias por este artículo. La lista de pelis pendientes es largaaa. Qué bueno volver a leerte. Sigue!

Will said...

I haven't seen Melancholia. It sounds pretty far out. Didn't know it was a movie about depression.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree that Melancholia was snubbed due to the director's antics during Cannes. I guess he doesn't care that his film was largely ignored by the public and in awards season, but I'm sure that Kirsten Dunst would have received some awards recognition were it not for Trier....