'Melancholia: The Diamond' is the first attempt. If successful it will be followed by others. In order to rearticulate the essence of 'Melancholia', a film about two parallel universes that Lars von Trier completed in 2011, the filmmaker had two raw diamonds that grew together millions of years ago, a so called twin diamond, cut. The gem is one of star attractions at the exhibition. The precious stone is somewhat ambiguous. It isn't entirely uncut, but not all the surfaces have been polished as is normally required in the diamond industry. It's quite a big stone too, 12 carats, and is removed from the M HKA every evening and placed back in the morning for safekeeping. As far as the museum knows it's the only diamond of this size that is an object of reflection rather than a stone that has been fitted into a piece of jewellery.
Lars von Trier, who has always been fascinated, even obsessed by diamonds, took personal charge of the exhibition that's been realised with Marianne Slot and Leonid Ogarev. It was Mr Ogarev who took the initiative for the exhibition that has been realised with his support.
Marvel at the diamond, but the most exciting experience is yet to come. Anastasiya Tarasova, head of digital production at IP Ogarev, developed a virtual reality experience that allows you to see a blown up image of the very same diamond in virtual reality. Don the headset and a giant virtual reality diamond appears in front of you. Your ears are drowned in the music of Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde', the same music that occurs in the movie 'Melancholia'. You can now step into the diamond, or with hand movements beckon it or push it away. Swipe and the diamond rotates.
Visiting the diamond and doing the virtual reality experience is a very private experience. Each visitor or pair of visitors gets ten minutes to examine the diamond in its secured case and don the headset for the three minute experience.
Liesbeth Garrammone is one of only three museum stewards allowed to assist visitors after she received special training from the Russians: "The Russian team is determined everybody should get a perfect experience. This is a pilot and they want to ensure the technology works perfectly. If it's a success this project could be rolled out with other diamond shows linked to Lars von Trier's other films in Moscow and Berlin. It was a little complicated to start off with because all the instructions on the equipment were in Russian, but we soon sorted out any teething problems. The Russian crew can also follow everything that is happening in the room via a video link."
"It's great to see people’s reactions people. It's especially a treat for Lars von Trier fans. I always advise people to look at the diamond first before taking the virtual reality experience. I explain which hand movements people should make to attract, rotate and push away the gem."
Tanguy de Thuret, a French Lars von Trier fan, had made the trip to Antwerp especially and certainly wasn't disappointed when he donned the virtual reality headset: "It's amazing, extraordinary, just like a sculpture. I wish my friends were here. This is highly original, using vanguard technology to create contemporary art. When I stepped inside the diamond it felt both beautiful and dangerous at the same time! Lars von Trier is such an anarchic Romantic!"
In addition to the Melancholia diamond and the virtual reality experience at M HKA, Cinema Zuid, M HKA's nearby arthouse cinema, is screening all Lars von Trier movies in February, March and April including his newest film 'The House that Jack Built'. Melancholia: The Diamond runs at M HKA in Antwerp until 5 May 2019.