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Melancholia (2011) Print E-mail
Monday, 12 March 2012
Image“Melancholia” is an easy one to predict.  It is a clear-cut example of an artistic filmmaking piece tailored toward the filmmaker himself and toward to the general filmmaking population.  It has little impact on the general film-going population.  Sadly, many will not understand this film more than just its superficial side, simply tossing the film away.

But “Melancholia” is so much more than just an end of the world epic.  It contains truth, emotions and awe-inspiring art design.  I’m not say that I myself absolutely loved this film.  I still think that it more of a director’s ego boost.  I’m not saying that filmmakers should predicate everything on making films than are drones just to appease the masses.  However, in that sense, this film will never see itself elevated to more than just a top-notch artistic independent film.

I am not going to attempt to describe this film to you.  There are so many hidden agendas that it is up to you as a viewer to discover them and decide whether you agree or not.  Where the film succeeds is in its amazing art design.  The fantasy portion of the film yields some tremendous images and some great cinematography.  The views of Melancholia, the planet threatening to destroy earth is breathtaking.  Sure, it doesn’t look like much at the beginning but as it moves closer you get some amazing detail and clarity.  The rest of the set is fairly bland, taking place entirely on an estate with a golf course.

The story is dividing into a prelude and then two parts, Justine and Claire.  The first eight minutes are bit hard to sit through as they take place in ultimate slow motion and are just a jumbled of snippets to make some sense toward the end.  Also, the film’s score is in my tastes overly dramatic to the point of annoyance.  I believe the score is probably my least favorite thing about the film.  Just start watching and listening and perhaps you will understand.  The score takes on the structure of a classical performance with preludes and movements to follow the progression of the film. The progression of the film is another matter.  For most the film is going to be a hodgepodge of images and a slew of under-spoken dialogue making absolutely no sense.  Be forewarned, “Melancholia” is not a typical dramatic film.  The dialogue is sparse and when it does occur they appear in snippets.  It is hard to derive meaning from just a few random words that hardly express the emotion of the film’s story.  The film can move at an excruciatingly slow pace at times.  Based on the opening prelude we all know how the story ends, so sometimes the film loses itself to blank stares and empty words.

“Melancholia” is perhaps the perfect artistic film for filmmakers, but it is hardly going to strike a chord with general moviegoers.

The Blu-ray comes with an AVC encode at 2.35:1.  The technical encode of the transfer is perfect, in a word.  While we not all agree with the artistic visual choices made by the filmmaker, “Melancholia” has one of the best Blu-ray video transfers in recent memory.  Details are extraordinary.  The greenery and the costumes and the facial features all receive tremendous clarity and texture.  The shadow delineation is pitch perfect.  Surprisingly, this independent film has better low-lighting control over the image’s brightness and contrast than many major blockbusters.  The colors are warm when called upon and bleak and dreary when is necessitated.  This has nothing to do with the transfer, but the style in which this film is shot is handheld.  There is hardly a single dolly or tripod shot in the entire film.  Lars von Trier has his reasons for this, but many of you are going to find it distracting and simply unnecessary.  For many the visual style will come off as nothing more than amateur filmmaking. Personally, I did find the handheld camera distracting but I accept Trier’s reasons.

The audio quality of the transfer is not as awe-inspiring as the video transfer.  The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track’s best feature is also its worst feature.  The dynamics are expansive, encompassing all 24-bits.  Sadly, the expansive nature of the dynamics also leads to an at times unbearable to listen to audio track.  I use the prelude and the outro of the film as examples.  The build up at the end of the film is without a doubt deafening.  I advise you to have your finger on the volume control.  Yes, it is part of the sound design.  However, there is a point at which a filmmaker takes it too far, and this is it.  I would hope that the sound designer would have at least informed Trier of the consequences of his decision.  In any event, the dialogue is at times murky and low in the prioritize mix.  The score ultimately takes over everything from beginning to end.  Sound effects are limited, though there are a few bass sequences that utilize the LFE channel beyond its usefulness.  Like the expansive nature of the film’s score, the thundering LFE rumble is untamed.  Untamed is fine but the result this time around is so wild that my 18-inch subs came within a millimeter of bursting.  The LFE is in desperate need of EQ and level control.  So, in the end, the sound design may be the way Trier wants it, but for the end consumer it is quite unbearable throughout.  Your ears will be begging for the peaceful segments throughout the film.

Apparently, not all Blu-ray releases are treated equal as the US release of this film lacks a few of the special features presented on the British version, most notable a director audio commentary.  “About Melancholia” is a discussion on the thematic elements of the film.  “The Visual Style” and “Special Effects” are self-explanatory.  “The Universe” is another visual effects piece.  “HDNet: A Look At ‘Melancholia’” is a useless promo.  Lastly there are a couple of theatrical trailers.

The release of “Melancholia” is going to thrill filmmakers, but leave general audience members scratching their heads.  The video quality here is tremendous, but unfortunately the audio quality, while technically proficient in the transfer, lacks a sense of true sound design that will not may your audience members leave.  The Blu-ray release also takes a hit due to the lack of the director’s audio commentary.  It you find that independent filmmaking is for you then this is going to blow your mind.  However, if you just like to lose yourself in a film then this film is going to leave you cold.  Recommended.

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