Melancholia (2011)

October 18, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

There has never been a more tranquil, beautiful depiction of destruction than Melancholia by the one and only Lars von Trier. A planet, named Melancholia, that was hiding behind the sun appears to be heading towards Earth, although scientists predict that Melancholia will go past them. The plot sounds thin and old on paper, but it’s much more than an “end of the world” film like Armageddon. The film is a meditation on depression and hopelessness, and is acted wonderfully by the the entire cast. The film definitely sparks discussion about the end, however far or close that might be.

Lars von Trier weaves visually stunning scenes with scenes that feel all-too real, making a mix that caresses the audience. Most of the film is shot in Trier’s shaky-cam, naturalistic style, and that’s what makes the film feel alive. The intro is breathtaking, as Trier slows the poetic scenes of events to come at a snails pace, in order for the audience to absorb the chaos. There are also CGI scenes involving the planet that is named Melancholia, and they look fantastic because it’s not overly rich CGI, but just enough to be convincing. The story is comfortably placed and the script allows the audience to be absorbed by what’s on-screen rather than complex dialogue.

Kirsten Dunst turns in a revealing performance as Justine, a woman that is suffering from depression and hopelessness. The first part of the film takes place during her wedding reception, where she puts on a rather convincing smile until she gets tired and the smile crumbles. Dunst, as Justine, is a pessimistic mess, roaming around trying to find happiness in the world of her mind where it’s rarely allowed. We see the hope being suffocated in Justine’s eyes and jagged mannerisms, as well as her opinions, like when she mentions that we, humans, are alone in the universe. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Clare, Justine’s sister, who is the one with the “happy life,” although uncertainty and anxiety still linger over her head. She tries to help her sister in any way she can, but often times her attempts at being Justine’s mother figure falter.

Melancholia is a slow ride through the mind of depression, and a contemplation of what would happen if we truly ran out of time. Like other Trier films, you are left to discover your feelings that the film pulls out from you so easily. There’s no real redeeming character to turn to, only the sense of impending doom that we eventually will not be able to escape, revealing who we are when we confront it.

Potential Drawbacks:

This is a Lars von Trier film, and his films are usually not meant for mainstream audiences, who label them as “artsy” and take a pass. The film will feel slow to some, and the first part especially might deter some viewers because it doesn’t spoon feed the story, but rather shows you and invites you to use your mind. Some may even think that the “shaky-cam” is to distracting to the film.

Film Recommendations:

Another Earth


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