Melancholia and The Skin I Live In
Two Films to Ruin Your Holiday Season
First of all, I want to thank everyone for your kind remarks following my lengthy hospitalization. While some of you may know this, I spent a considerable amount of time hospitalized with other patients who were suffering from various types of brain injuries. Though I was the only one who hadn’t been operated on, many of them left an impact on me that I will never forget.
On the other hand, I did truly miss the ability to get back into the movie theater, and I attacked it head-on following my return home. Though I was initially advised not to drive, many friends, not to mention my last several exchange students from Saudi Arabia, took the time to take me to the theater, and I will forever admire their graciousness.
On the other hand, my attempts to again establish that I am completely intellectually back on my feet was severely handicapped after seeing the praised Melancholia and The Skin I Live In on consecutive days. Despite the fact that both have been randomly acclaimed by respected reviewers with the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, I found both films to be complete and total disasters.
Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia is as intolerably boorish as his idiot speech praising the Nazis at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Though the movie undeniably contains some wonderful actors, it is not an exaggeration to say that not one of their characters is remotely likeable. On top of that, how Kirsten Dunst was applauded as Best Actress at Cannes defies any reasonable explanation. She is both dull and irritating beyond words, and little more needs to be said.
Melancholia is broken down into two segments. The first deals with Ms. Dunst’s marriage, while the second focuses on a strange planet which is threatening to destroy Earth. As the bride, Ms. Dunst is a hopeless figure who alternates between depression and the spineless wish that her new husband leaves.
Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland are mildly entertaining as her sister and brother-in-law, but the lengthy wedding reception left most viewers wishing that if the Earth truly does get destroyed, that it would at least damage our theater immediately.
The second episode deals with the impending crisis, but it added little entertainment or interest to this lost cause. Like it or not, Melancholia is a ghastly bore and I’m still struggling on how respected critics could sing its praises.
On the other hand, Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In succeeds in being one of the most profoundly twisted films ever made this side of The Human Centipede. Antonio Banderas is wretchedly appalling as a demented surgeon who kidnaps other humans, imprisoning them in his home where he performs a scientifically forbidden volume of surgeries on them. As I noted with Melancholia, there is not one emotionally likeable character in the entire film, and its sick theme is as brutal as it is offensive.
However, despite the fact that The Skin I Live In Is admittedly artistically clever on various levels, its central premise amounts to little more than a complete failure by any definition. As annoying as Mr. Banderas eventually became in this year’s Puss in Boots, it is impossible to have any sympathy for him as he becomes sexually attracted to the suspected male rapist of his deceased daughter who he surgically converts into a woman while holding him/her hostage in his home for a period of years.
Regardless of whether you agree with my review, the fact that The Skin I Live In was not nominated by Spain for this year’s Oscar is readily apparent on its face. In the end, I must admit that I am at a complete loss trying to understand how national critics could generously praise both of the above films. In a sense, I am reminded why critics found themselves so compromised in praising Ingmar Bergman’s films decades ago. Once again, I could only wish that critics would sit and watch these films with a general audience from the midwest as opposed to being wined and dined at Cannes and other similar festivals.
Then again, as I left the theater following both films, I couldn’t help but think upon my recent lengthy hospitalization during which the doctors wanted to make sure that I wasn’t suffering from any disastrous head injuries. While I am trying to convince everyone that I am intellectually back on my feet, maybe my profound frustration with these films really does indicate that I am still suffering some unknown injury following the accident. On the other hand, even if I am, I still can safely repeat that I find both Melancholia and The Skin I Live In imminently forgettable experiences.