Tuesday, January 26, 2016


(h/t Fr. Z) The Bear has been so focused on Church woes that he completely missed the fact that astronomers have discovered a whole brand new planet the size of Neptune. Supposedly it takes 10,000 to 20,000 years to make one orbit -- one "year." But, since it has been observed that the Bear takes the glass half-empty view, he can't help but think of the 2011 art film by Lars Von Trier and starring Kirstin Dunst.

And, yes, this is still about the enormous, so-far-unnamed planet of doom that is creeping our way.

Lars Von Trier has a painterly eye as a director, as well as, apparently, Tourette's syndrome. At the Cannes presser, with a clearly embarrassed Kirstin Dunst sitting next to him, he gave a rambling answer that included the words, "I am a Nazi," but in a tentative and unconvincing way.

Man, if you're going to say you are a Nazi, you'd better sell it.

He suffers from depression, and the planet Melancholia is the film's way of expressing the inexorable, hopeless process of that disease.

Dunst's character also suffers from severe depression, but as Melancholia gets closer, paradoxically, her depression has equipped her with the resources to meet the calamity. Her super-competent sister, played by Charlotte Gainsborough, a Von Trier staple, falls apart. (Gainsborough is the daughter of Serge Gainsborough, whose memorable duet with Jane Birkin, Je t'aime... moi non plus was condemned by the Vatican as indecent, and not because of the lyrics.)

Dunst gives a wonderful performance, and Kiefer Sutherland is solid as the chipper, "Oh, don't worry, that thing's going to miss us by a billion miles," husband of the sister. It's actually a good film in parts.

Having said all that, while it is not run-from-the-theater-screaming awful like all his other movies (which you should never, ever watch) the Bear cannot recommend it without heavy qualifications. It has some "artsy" nudity, with lingering shots of Kirstin Dunst "planet bathing" in the eerie blue light of Melancholia. The Bear and his mate pretty much did a Mystery Science Theater 3000 on it, which wasn't hard. Somewhere there's a photoshopped picture the Bear's son did of Lars Von Trier fighting a polar bear with a spork. Yes, we were that into Melancholia hate.

But the Bear has some good news, and some bad news.

The very best sequence from the movie, the opening, set to Wagner's Love Death from Tristan und Isolde, is appended to this article. If you like art films, you'll probably enjoy it. The attention to strange details (just what would it look like if Earth got eaten by a giant killer planet?) is beautiful. Don't worry about plot, just take in the imagery. You'll see what the Bear means by Von Trier's painterly eye. Notice details like the double shadows on the lawn. Prepare to be enthralled for six minutes.

The bad news is that the only possible name for this new planet is Melancholia. Sometime, maybe 10,000 years from now, maybe less, people will be building pathetic stick-tepees as birds fall from the sky.


  1. The video is entertaining but of course pure fiction. Any planet in the Oort cloud that moved toward the inner solar system would displace outer solar system comets, disturb the orbits of the outer planets, and displace asteroids in the asteroid belt. Any one of those would probaly have severe consequences for Earth long before that large planet ever came close. And if it somehow did come close, it would destroy the moon in its orbit first, and likely shatter Earth long before impact when Earth got within its Roche limit.

    As for the real planet in the Oort cloud, its travel around the sun may account for the periodic displacement of comets, sending them to the inner solar system. Perhaps the impact of 65 million years ago which resulted in the destruction of the dinosaurs may be due to a comet or asteroid displaced by the movement of such a planet about the sun. It is an event like that which would happen long before that planet could ever come close to Earth. In fact, unless the planet's trajectory is other than along the disc of the solar system, Earth would be destroyed while it is still travelling inward towards Neptune and Uranus.

    Nevertheless, it was an entertaining video. Thanks! :-)

  2. Stupid Lars Von Trier. Leave it to him to screw up the Oort. I wish I could say the rest of the movie was as good. The next sequence is a tedious and unpleasant wedding dinner that is, seriously, a third of the movie, shot entirely with a hand held camera. Mostly Kirstin Dunst acting really depressed and having random (discretely portrayed) sex on the sand trap of the seventh hole, which I thought was a little activated for a depressed woman. (BTW, did you notice the flag for the 13th hole?) And howlers like trying to get away from the planet of doom on a golf cart.

    That opening recalls the opening Terence Malick's opus Tree of Life. Which begins at the creation of the universe and goes through an encounter between a smaller dinosaur and an unexpectedly merciful bigger one, and about fourteen minutes in we get into the actual plot. What's interesting is that a voice whispers (at the creation) "where were you?") and there are other Job-like voice overs (but not all are).

    A beautifully filmed movie with Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, who is luminous, about boyhood in the days when you ran into the cloud emitted by the mosquito abatement truck. It's not really plot-driven, but the theme of grace is ubiquitous. Another slow, painterly movie, but well worth seeing, if only for how Malick is able to turn Chastain into an ethereal icon of motherhood.

  3. No one remembers Serge Gainsborough's song from the 60's?

    1. "Je T'aime?" I always thought it was a 'bump and grind' sort of song, ala 'Tonight only...girls, girls girls!'

      Or did you mean the rendition of "Bonnie and Clyde" Gainsbourg recorded, Bear?

    2. Innocent enough lyrics, but aural pornography. It was meant to cause a sensation, and the more it was condemned the higher it rose on the charts.

  4. Listen, Bear, I remember that "song" -- or whatever its proper designation is -- only too well.

    As for the movie clip -- Wow! What a lovely treat. I'm gobsmacked. Thank you. Painterly is right.

    But you had to mention Monsieur Gainsbourg. Now I need a session in a vat of sheep dip (which always makes me cross).

  5. By the way, Bear, your film clip wont play here in Ireland. Apparently Nordisk Film has blocked the content in this country (perhaps as a measure of concern for the mental health of the Irish).

    I have seen (or attempted to see) the film twice now when it was broadcast on television. I found it so languidly and numbingly depressing that I coul not watch it through the end.

    Nice cinematography though.

    1. If you think that was depressing, Your Honor, then you'll deffo want to skip the whole thing. I think Von Trier's plan was to reduce the audience to a state of clinical depression so by the end it, like Dunst's character, welcomes annihilation. Still, it's my movie I love to hate and hate to love.


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