That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

Melancholia & Take Shelter (teaser)

Friday, November 11th, 2011 5:17 pm—Film

Melancholia (Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany 2011, Drama/Sci-Fi), Writer/Director: Lars von Trier

Take Shelter (USA 2011, Drama), Writer/Director: Jeff Nichols

After a client rescheduled this afternoon’s meeting at the last minute, I found myself with some unexpected free time. I opened up the file for a new script I’m working on, but whether from mental fatigue or creative drought or simply procrastination, I found myself thinking instead about a couple completed films I’m excited to see. So I decided to write a teaser, as I haven’t done one of those in awhile. Plus, these films are likely already playing—or about to be released—in a city near you, so hopefully this post will get you geared up for some great cinema.

Melancholia and Take Shelter will both be showing at the ByTowne this November and December, and I’m taking the leap and pre-recommending each of them. I’ll make sure I get to Take Shelter, and if I make it to both films, I’ll see if it works to compare and contrast them in a joint post. The potential seems to be there.

Each of these movies features a writer/director combo—Danish Lars von Trier for Melancholia and American Jeff Nichols for Take Shelter. Having the same person fill those pivotal roles often yields the best results, because the film’s mastermind truly understands its original vision and is closer to it than anyone.

I haven’t seen anything by Jeff Nichols, who just broke onto the directing scene in the past few years, so I can’t comment on the creations of his mind. But I saw and very much liked two of von Trier’s previous films, Dancer in the Dark and Dogville. Both were dark and took creative risks that, in my opinion, really paid off. It’s been too long since I saw Dancer in the Dark for me to talk specifics, but I remember it being harrowing, moving and bold, and featuring a very brave and raw performance from Björk. (She won Best Actress at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, where the film also picked up the prized Palme d’Or award.)

I rented 2003’s Dogville more recently and was impressed with its production concept. The film, which stars Nicole Kidman and the ever-extraordinary Chloë Sevigny, among others, is shot on a very minimalist soundstage, a feature it proudly hides in plain sight. But the excellent actors play the location—standing in for a small mountain town—very straight, and the effect is incredibly convincing. The characters are pretty twisted, and lure the plot into some dark alleyways. But I’ll leave it at that for now; Dogville definitely offers enough for a post of its own.

All that to say, von Trier productions work very effectively, having been written and directed by the same mind, and I’d expect the same from his latest venture. Melancholia explores the struggles faced by a young newlywed woman (Kirsten Dunst, in the role that won her Best Actress at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival), who is grappling with depression, and impending apocalypse due to a mysterious, fast-approaching planet that is expected to collide with Earth. The film also stars Kiefer Sutherland, and the alluring Anglo-French actor/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, from Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There and Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep.

Nichols joins in on the apocalyptic fun and games with Take Shelter, this time from the point of view of a small-town Ohio man tormented by a series of paranoid visions about the end of the world. Like Melancholia, this film stars some terrific actors: Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and the incredible Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Help, The Debt and a slew of heavy-hitting films coming down the pipes).

What interests me about Melancholia and Take Shelter—besides the talent behind them and the outstanding reviews they’ve garnered—is that they both deal with impending apocalypse and psychological disturbance, and they both seem to blur the line between the two, prompting questions about how much is really out there and how much is in our minds. And, given that the experience of reality is always so skewed by individual perception, when does it really start to matter?

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