I haven't seen Melancholia (been meaning to for ages), but I'm a big fan of Lars von Trier, in particular "Dogville". It's an interesting movie for a playwright to watch since it looks like a stage-play instead of a movie. The set is minimalist and representative (everything is drawn in chalk) instead of "accurate" like most movies.
It's interesting to me since a soon as a movie director uses representative instead of accurate staging he gets criticized for being pretentious whereas in theatre, representative staging is accepted and enjoyed without a second thought. It's one of the reasons I prefer theatre over film, since I enjoy representative staging much more than accurate staging. I also like animation for the same reason, since animation is much more likely to be representative than traditional film.
Also, concerning theatre and Lars von Trier, when our class met with Oscar Eustis on our NY Arts tour last year; he mentioned something about a stage adaptation of Lars Von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark" currently in development.
I, too, love "Dogville," and pull it out about every 6 months to watch it. It really is brilliant. "Antichrist" is another brilliant film with great insight, it was unexpected and, because of certain graphic scenes, limited its audience dramatically. "Melancholia" is a divine masterpiece! I cannot say enough about it. It's interesting you left your post today, because tomorrow it is being released on Blu Ray (and DVD). Since I pre-ordered it more than a month ago from Amazon it'll be delivered tomorrow. "Zentropa" (formerly "Europa") was the film that introduced me to his genius. I do think that playwrights should find him more accessible than most. Also, I did hear about the "Dancer in the Dark" project.
One of the most interesting things, to me, about "Dogville" is the way that it's often interpreted. Around it's release many reviewers saw it as an attack on Americana considering its similarities to "Our Town". However, to me, the most interesting interpretation is viewing it as a religious allegory. It surprised me that more critics didn't pick up on it since I think the movie is pretty blatant in parts that it's meant to be interpreted as such (the main character's name for one). That interpretation all comes to a head in the conversation that Grace has with her father in the film's closing scenes.
It pretty much hinges on this scene from the Bible: Christ is brought to Calvary, stripped of his clothes, looks upwards and says "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do." It seems almost, that line, is half of an conversation between the Son and the Father arguing Mercy against Justice. In the Biblical text, Mercy it seems to me, triumphs.
This is very similar to the conversation that Grace has with her father and I believe Grace even says a line that is almost exactly "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do." However in this argument Justice triumphs. Almost as if we're presented with an alternate version of the Calvary moment where the Son says, "You're right, Father, they all deserve to burn."
That's what made the movie so interesting to me, particularly considering how satisfying it is to many viewers to watch the denizens of the town receive justice for their crimes.
I also loved Zentropa too, particularly the absurdist irony in that the main character works for a train company that only shuttles its passengers between ruins.
How you saw "Dogville" is pretty much the only way it can be seen. Critics (especially movie critics) are incredibly un-insightful; probably because just about anyone who doesn't stink and is wearing clean clothes can walk into a newspaper office and get a job reviewing movies. I used to be a theatre critic for a large NYC paper at a time I only knew what turned me on and very little else. So almost all critics are as*holes! I was.
I had the hardest time getting my hands on a copy of "Zentropa." Could not find an English subtitled version, so I had to contact a distributer somewhere in Asia (I don't remember at the moment) and it had Korean subtitles. Since I knew it so well, I really didn't need the subtitles, but it one have been nice. The case it came in smelled of raw plastic and burning rubber and took a month not to stink-up the apartment!
Again, your take on "Dogville" was spot-on. The stark minimalist set that one could see through to the rest of the town, reflected the minimalist-minds and characters that were easy to see though. Whether that's intentional or not -- it would have been in my review.
Von Trier is a very complicated and cerebral artist; how really can one expect the general theater-goer to appreciate his work? "Melancholia" only was shown at the Mayan and perhaps another art house here in Denver. (Did they show it in the Springs?) It was one of his more accessible films. I expected it to be in general release. I was certain it would be up for best picture and director (he also wrote it), but it wasn't and I am certain I know why. He said something offensive and insensitive at Cannes that make a big uproar and sealed his fate with the Hollywood crowd. I don't think he cares, and those of us who love his work don't care either.
I don't think that Von Trier produces the sorts of films that get nominated for Oscars, the Academy generally favors films that are middlebrow and accessible. Case in point, this year, "The Artist" sweeping "Tree of Life". While the Artist was a brave film from the production stand-point (silent film in 2012!) the film itself wasn't attempting to say anything particularly ambitious and was pretty accessible. Compare to "Tree of Life" which is incredibly ambitious, and really dense - almost to the point of incomprehensibility at times. "The Artist" is an enjoyable flick; "Tree of Life" alters your perception of the universe. Same thing happened with the Tonies, with "Warhorse" beating "Jerusalem" (I saw both, Jerusalem got robbed).
"Melancholia" came to the Springs, we have a pretty good art -house theatre here in Kimball's Twin Peak and even Tinseltown sometimes plays movies you wouldn't otherwise expect a multiplex to. We're still waiting on Coriolanus, though.
I had a huge amount of trouble finding "Zentropa" since I saw it originally on Australian SBS where it was screened with its original title "Europa". I got lucky with though since there used to be a rare-film rental place here called "Toons" where you could find the craziest stuff. They had "Zentropa" on VHS as well as stuff I thought I'd never see again like "Ghosts of the Civil Dead". I also got to study it in a film class a while back - I wonder where the Prof. got his copy.
Also, Did you see "The Five Obstructions"? It's sort of a film experiment about the creative process. Von Trier asks a mentor of his to remake the same film (an early film of the mentor's) five times, each time working under a different limitation that Von Trier prescribes. Now that I think about it, theatre has a lot of "obstructions" which force people to get really creative with it.
A quick note before bed. We watched "My Week With Marilyn" this evening. At the top of the DVD were, as usual, coming attractions for upcoming DVDs and I saw the trailer for "Coriolanus." It looked terrific and realistic, unlike Titus (though I did like the blatant artsiness of it). Now I've got to see "Coriolanus!"
One Christmas I took a friend of mine on a date to Cinema Village on 12th Street a few days before Christmas to see a double feature Bergman's "Face to Face" and "Cries and Whispers." Needless to say there were only 6 people in the theatre.
But we loved it. Riveting. Exhausting. Not Christmas fare. Those are movies you do not watch, you go through them.
Have not seen Melancholia yet.
But the movie that slapped me over the head and under the jaw and body blows and jarred my brain was the recent Academy Award winner, "A Separation." My wife into the theatre "blind" knowing nothing about it.
It was a move to endure, and I mean that in every way. Tough to get through emotionally. Really exhausting. It eviscerated me in every way.
P.S. Went to "My Week with Marilyn" knowing nothing really of it. I adored it. Beautiful movie. It is not about Marilyn. It is about the conflict/struggle involved in the pursuit of brilliance.