Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Philadelphia Film Fest #6: Melancholia

Something odd happened as I entered the lobby of the theater. I had just passed the huge line of people waiting outside to get into Lars Von Trier's Melancholia, waving my press badge thru the air with pompous arrogance as I proceeded to be amongst the first sat in the theater for this sold-out Sunday night screening. In the lobby, a woman had stopped me dead in my tracks, asking 'What is Shooting Wall?' and 'What are your intentions at this Fest?' to which I explained our aspirations, one of which is to write in-depth reviews of the films we've come to watch. She asked if I was planning to write an in-depth review of Melancholia, to which I replied Yes, of course. She told me if that's the case, then I cannot see the film. I was confused. This woman was from the film's distribution company.

If I were to be writing anything about this film, I would have to summarize the 2 hours and 10 minutes of it within a "capsule review." She had told this to me very politely. If my intention was to write more than a few sentences, my ass would rather be promptly sat on the street with the rats instead of sat before the screen amongst my fellow filmgoers. My heart was invested in the film; I had very much wanted to experience it personally after watching the trailer several times, therefore I felt no need to defend the freedom of the press; instead what I'd done was oblige the woman, and she guided me into the theater, telling me I'm in for quite an interesting ride.

This is a puzzle film. Yes, it's puzzling why the distributor won't allow me to write a real analysis of it, but I moreso speak of the goings-on within the film - many mysterious things happening all thru, nothing explained in a normal way, hardly any exposition, all of these mysteries piling on top of one another to create a puzzle that will leave heads being scratched, a film to think upon with diligence for hours or even days after being witnessed.

Could it be a personal request from Von Trier himself to keep his film a secret? Although I'm unsure if I would suggest entering it without knowing anything, as the film's tedium will surprise you. But I wonder if people knew too many details about the film, if that would really hinder their decision to go see it? No matter the answer, if this really has been the filmmaker's decision, then I wish him all the luck in getting his film to be popular, as I do support such a concept. I do want a film like this to succeed, as it's very artful and has enough oddities about it that could be interesting to a fairly wide audience and spark discussions...so long as they aren't written on the internet before the official release date of November 11th.

So, a woman from the distributor greets me at the front door with a warning of what I can and cannot write about Melancholia. Whether this be a method for attempting the great feat of protecting the mystery of the film, or something besides what I've been guessing, all I can do is oblige the woman, oblige Von Trier, oblige whoever made this seemingly crazy decision. In fact, if I wrote a formal analysis, all I would end up doing is listing every individual mystery in the film, and right next to each listed mystery, I would ask, 'What??' And that wouldn't be fun for anybody.

Even if I did fully understand the mystery of Melancholia, it's something worth discussion only amongst those who have also had the experience. It's easiest just to see the film personally, that way you get the experience of this "grand" and "masterful" puzzle, to try wrapping your head around it, which is what I'm still in the middle of attempting. The film has left me thinking, and it's a very specific type of thinking, a refreshing type of thought process, which can't be caused by reading any words in any review; it only comes after seeing the film with your own eyes and ears. It's boring, but interesting in many parts, in many ways, and I have faith that if I keep trying to solve the mystery, every part of the film which bored me, will no longer be what I remember the most. I would rather take pride in the meaning.

- Jon Seidman

Hunters in the Snow, a perfect view of civilian life


  1. I am honestly totally appalled that this person from the distribution company would have the audacity to stop you and ask you what shooting wall is and then tell you that you cannot see the film if you intend on writing an in-depth review of it. What???? This what the Philadelphia Film Festival is allowing to happen? This is a fucking movie, not nuclear secrets. I don't really care what their intentions are, they shouldn't be telling members of the press or anyone for that matter what they can and cannot say about a film. I have yet to experience this myself at the festival, so hopefully this isn't something the festival traditional condones, but I am so disappointed they would even allow this person to hunt down the press and threaten them. I suggest that you write your full, in-depth review and post it in opposition to this bullshit. It's up to you, of course, but I am willing to take the consequences because I don't think there will be any and what they did is not right.

  2. This is something that happens at all festivals. Usually the distributors have a purpose for it though, but here's it's baffling considering it's already played at Cannes and has been reviewed numerous times. It's also already been OnDemand since the beginning of the month. I'm not sure why the embargo except maybe they want local reviews to not come out until release here to boost local sales? Maybe there's some boneheaded local distributor handling Philly... In any case, it's only now starting to occur to me how odd of a decision this is.