As Melancholia’s epic gloom was resolved, and the Wagner prelude (reorganized by Kristian Eidnes Andersen) fell ambivalently from its massive crest, we watched the credits begin with the major actors’ names. I’m never good at recognizing actors. Kiefer Sutherland? Yes, he was the husband! John Hurt? He must have been the father, I recognize his hair from Ridley Scott’s Nottingham. Alexander Skarsgård must have been the bridegroom [why give him the job of embodying American superficiality and emotional clichés?]. Udo Kier? Who was he? Who was the young guy following Justine around as if in an office farce? That was a hard role to make plausible, and he did it.
The credits progressed, and the cast list came sooner than it normally does. But what’s this? None of the top-billed actors are listed next to their characters. What if I forget someone’s name before I get home? How will I get better at recognizing actors if I still don’t know who Udo Kier was, in the wake of what was undoubtedly a memorable role? [He’s the party planner, the tall old man who angrily puts Justine’s bags on the porch.]
But my discomfort was nothing compared to the man at the end of my row, whose first act after the screen went black was to ask his companion if he knew where that glorious castle was. Neither of them knew. I didn’t know. Repeatedly he leaned forward happily as the credits said something like “Production Manager [Denmark]” or “Casting [Denmark]” or “Accounting [Denmark]”, only to be thrown as it was followed by “Production Manager [Sweden]”, “Production Manager [Germany]”, “Casting [Sweden]”, “Accounting [France]”, et al. Where was it filmed, dammit? Not the interiors, but the terraces, the greensward, the forest. Is this place real? Just before the logos, we finally see it.
FILMED ON LOCATION IN VÄSTERGÖTLAND
I told the guy “That’s part of Sweden”. I wasn’t positive, but I know “Göteborg” is a city in Sweden, and the concepts of “Western Götland” and “Eastern Götland” sound familiar. Soon I worried that it might be Finland, being confused between “Östergötland” and “Ostrobothnia”. But there were no Finnish names in the credits. Were there? And how do we know it’s not Denmark? Ö is Swedish, Ø is Norwegian. But which is Danish? Not sure.
So kudos to von Trier for forcing his trademark psychological torment and narrative dissatisfaction into the most basic superstructure of his film.