Finally, the 2011 Cannes Film Festival has its first big controversy! Following the premiere of Lars von Trier's grim, apocalyptic Melancholia, the gutsy director came under fire for somewhat jokingly announcing at the film's press conference that he was a Nazi and understood Hitler, adding, "What can I say? I understand Hitler. He did some wrong things, absolutely, but I can see him sitting there in his bunker at the end ... I sympathise with him, yes, a little bit." Okay then ...
Moving on (because we'd rather focus on the work than idiotic in-the-moment comments from filmmakers), let's see what the early buzz is on one of the fest's most anticipated films, starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as two sisters whose lives are challenged by an imminent threat to the planet.
-- "Lars Von Trier continues to be his own best friend and worst enemy. We continue to admire the director and his dogged commitment to films that follow his own unique vision and personality right to the bitter end. But it’s that self-indulgence that often sabotages his own works as well. “Melancholia” is a personal project in the best and worst ways. We can’t imagine any other film tackling depression with the directness Von Trier does here anytime soon, but there is a curious lack of sensitivity and even compassion in the picture that seriously holds it back." - The Playlist
--"Nothing in “Melancholia” can match the dazzling momentum of its opening sequence, which has the visual splendor of expressionistic sci-fi and the refined look of a morbid fashion commercial. It’s also a handy guide to the ominous event that concludes the movie and haunts everything leading up to that point—namely, the end of the world. Revisiting the bleak tones of his last feature, “Antichrist” - which began with a similarly hyper-stylized prologue - Von Trier has constructed a mesmerizing elaboration on his favorite motifs, masterfully elevating them to an epic scale." - indieWIRE
-- "In many ways, this feels like Von Trier turning a page on who he has been up till this point, taking all of his strengths and setting aside his weaknesses. It is not a movie that trades in shock, and he does not spend the entire time punishing his lead actress. There is a kindness that leavens the painful sorrow that hangs over the film, and his wicked sense of humor feels organic here, managing to create this emotional rollercoaster, sometimes whipping you from hearty laughter to the verge of tears within a few lines. That seems appropriate, too, since this really isn't a film about the end of the world, but instead a way of expressing the bottomless horror of depression in a way that works as metaphor, as emotion, as unleashed beauty." - HitFix
-- "It’s certainly his most serious film in a while and you don’t get the sense that he is manipulating or mocking the audience as he usually does. It feels like he is passionate about his material here, possibly because it’s a movie about depression and Von Trier has said openly that he battles depression himself. ... Although at one point in the film I was hating it, by the end I was entirely under its spell." - Screen Daily
-- "Lars von Trier manages to turn the end of the world into a bit of a bore in Melancholia. A brooding cross between The Celebration (Festen) and Armageddon drenched in the tragic romanticism of Richard Wagner, this contemplation of the planet’s demise predictably provides not an ounce of comfort or redemption, nor does it offer characters or ideas with which to meaningfully engage, just ample opportunity to wallow in some rapturous images, glorious music and a foul mood. Absent the deliberate provocations of Antichrist and some of the Danish contrarian’s other works, a middling commercial career seems in store." - The Hollywood Reporter
Previous Cannes Buzz Stories:
Cannes Buzz: Terrence Malick's Tree of Life
Cannes Buzz: Sleeping Beauty, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Restless
Cannes Buzz: Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris
10 Cannes Festival Films You'll Be Talking About Later This Year