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“Melancholia” – Review (POSITIVE)

December 4, 2011

Lars von Trier isn’t very popular with the masses, after his Hitler remark earlier this year; many seem to outcast this rather mixed bag of a genius director. His bold films, sometimes tripe or altogether remarkable leave some diverse emotions. I myself felt a little violated by “Antichrist”.

After the premiere at Cannes Film Fest, word was immense for his end of the world picture, “Melancholia”. Starring Kristen Dunst, who took home the best Actress prize at the festival. An end of the world movie usually coincides with a blockbuster take these days, it never would’ve occurred to some by making a beautiful looking, art house, end of the world movie, but if anyone could pull it off in vast ways, it would be von Trier.

The movie opens with the most striking use of high-speed photography, giving a clear depiction of the destruction of our world. In the middle of all of this, is a family, living in a castle-like mansion in the countryside witnessing a planet colliding with our own. The planet is called Melancholia. The movie is broken into two parts. Part 1 focuses on Justine (Dunst), who’s spending the weekend with family and friends for her wedding. Part 2 focuses on Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). While both parts focus on two different things, they both have similar themes, fear.

Justine fears the future, she fears her happiness, can she at all find happiness, or will depression take hold of her with a vengeance? Justine makes some very odd choices throughout the night of her wedding; ignoring her new groom (Alexander Skarsgård), taking bathes in the middle of the party, napping, it’s almost like she’s creating a self destruction of her personal world all on her own. All of this, and then some, lead to consequences at the end.

In part 2, Claire learns from her scientist husband (Kiefer Sutherland) a planet called Melancholia, which has been hiding behind the Sun, will make its way towards Earth, crossing our path. She fears a different conclusion that the planet will collide, killing us all. Both woman fear natural feelings of lost hope. While Justine’s is more psychological, Claire’s is a reality developing into a nightmare she cannot awake from. By the end of the movie, both woman except their fears in a profound way, involving Claire’s son (Justine’s nephew), by putting aside difference and giving the boy an experience which will end peacefully for him without adding trepidation for him.

I think the theme of fear is handle in a suitable manner rather than how it was played out in “Antichrist”. Yes, there is indeed a lot of exposition in this movie, more than it might be able to handle, but not as much as what “Antichrist” was throwing at us. For me, von Trier is a hit or miss, and while his movies are hit/misses I still find aspects about them that I can truly respect.

Manuel Alberto Claro’s cinematography shines as bright as the planet that hovers above the heavens. There’s one particular sequence that stands out, when Justine runs out into the night, in the backyard she stands staring into the sky, two different shades of color are lighting the yard. One is the moon, giving off a gold-like light; the other is Melancholia, beaming down this cool/relaxing blue light. I was caught in the sheer brilliance of that scene thanks to the cinematography; I was baffled, how a shot like that was set up.

For some this movie won’t jive, I was in a theater where the mass audience was senior citizen, none of them could shut up about how they don’t get it, or the movie is too slow, or it’s vulgar with nudity (only one graphic nude scene). It may be a hard movie to swallow for it’s difficult themes, but I found myself on some sort of high by the closing credits. I felt this feeling of exhilaration once the two worlds finally collided. While the movie tended to drag over some pointless exposition, “Melancholia” gives a beautiful portrayal of fear and how we accept it in our lives. The performance by Kristen Dunst alone is worth a viewing.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2011 11:35 pm

    It moves on a little too long for me and the first hour really dragged on but Dunst’s performance was amazing and the last hour had me gripped the whole time. Good review.

    • December 5, 2011 12:18 am

      You’re right, the movie does tend to drag, mainly in “Part I Justine”. But, the stuff in “Part II Claire” was crazy.

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