Friday, June 13, 2014

Melancholia [Denmark, 2011]

Nine Things about the Movie Melancholia

1.This extraordinary film is the second in director Lars von Trier’s Depression Trilogy, after “Antichrist”. It’s not a sequel, it is a companion film. It examines similar themes, although this time in a science fiction genre. This movie is not as extreme as “Antichrist”, and is easier to understand. But that doesn’t mean this movie is a walk in the park. After all, it is Lars von Trier.

2. Von Trier wrote the movie based on a depressive episode he actually had, and the insight that depressed people tend to be more calm in situations of high pressure - because they are already prepared for the worst result.

3. The opening sequence of the film is a breathtakingly beautiful, surreal montage of scenes that represent themes explained during the course of the film. These scenes are juxtaposed with images of the destruction of the Earth as another planet collides into it.

4. The first half of the movie takes place at a wedding reception for Justine and Michael at a secluded country estate. The reception slowly unravels, partly because so many attendees make the evening about themselves. But the main problem is that Justine suffers from a debilitating depression, and is unable to hold herself together.

5. The second half of the movie takes place at the same country estate, shortly after the wedding. Justine is living there with her sister Claire and Claire’s family. A rogue planet, aptly named Melancholia, is making a near approach to Earth.

6. Claire is terrified that the planet will hit Earth. Her husband tries to convince her that the planet will miss Earth. Justine is calm in her knowledge that Melancholia will actually destroy our planet.

7. Charlotte Gainsbourg, who starred in “Antichrist”, plays Claire here. Her two roles in these movies make fascinating counterpoints. Kirsten Dunst almost burns a hole through the screen in her portrayal of Justine. It might be her best performance ever.

8. Von Trier wasn’t concerned with making the collision of the two planets scientifically realistic - his point was to illustrate the behavior of the human psyche under extreme circumstances.

9. This movie is a gorgeous, intimate apocalypse. Von Trier is telling us that whether it’s a brain problem or a cosmic one, we are all alone in this universe. Nothing we do ultimately matters, and we’re all helpless to control our own fate. We are just thrown around by forces greater than us until we die. But it’s still beautiful.

If that’s not a message you want to hear, then you should stay away from this movie.