Sunday 22 January 2012

Today's Review: Melancholia

Hot off the heels of the genital mutilation extravaganza that was Antichrist, Melancholia is Lars Von Trier's latest deep and meaningful movie. But this time we're not talking about a fox with vox and hitting cocks with rocks (take that, Dr. Seuss), we're confronted with a literally world ending scenario.

Kirsten Dunst stars as Justine, a newly married lady who is attending her wedding reception at the mansion of her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband, John (Kiefer Sutherland). Everything is lovely, until their opinionated and obnoxious mother kicks up a fuss and Justine herself begins to descend into a bout of depression. As the family members try to pick up Justine's spirits, things begin to spiral a bit out of control.

Not as out of control as the parts of the movie that sandwich the wedding reception. There's a long, slow motion sequence at the beginning of the movie that shows the characters in various symbolic situations, and also portrays the Earth's demise as the planet Melancholia collides with it. On the back half of the movie we have a story set some time after the reception, as the Justine and her family gather at the mansion to see the rogue planet travel by Earth, but all is not well as Justine falls into a deeper depression, and it becomes apparent that Melancholia may not make a simple fly by after all.

Kirsten Dunst is great in this movie. Her descent from happy bride to a state of deep depression is greatly portrayed, from the moments of pure despair up to the calm, accepting state of mind as the possibility of extinction emerges. Melancholia, after all, is a movie that attempts to portray a realistic depiction of depression, and how depressed people appear strangely calm in disastrous situations, due to the fact that they are predisposed to think that bad things will happen. While I certainly wouldn't have thought Kirsten Dunst would be able to handle a role of that magnitude, she really surprised me. Charlotte Gainsbourg turns in a great performance too, her character is quite the polar opposite of Justine's, calm and commandeering as the wedding party falls apart, but quickly breaking down in the face of death.

The imagery throughout the movie is beautiful, it's something that Von Trier certainly knows how to get right. The massive, blue planet Melancholia hangs out on the horizon most of the time, its presence threatening, yet peaceful at the same time somehow. The mansion and the grounds in which the movie takes place are wonderful, and it doesn't feel like a shot is wasted throughout the entire movie. While there is a lot of imagery and meaning injected into Melancholia, it certainly isn't too difficult to grasp the themes and concepts presented. While I got a little lost while watching Antichrist, this movie is split evenly into the two different time frames, each presenting the opposite ends of the personality of the two characters, one a "normal" human being, one suffering from severe depression. The sci-fi element of the massive blue planet is only there to create an utterly disastrous situation, what could be more distressing than the end of the world? Still, those who aren't used to thinking too much about movies (I know I'm not some of the time) might find themselves a little bored or lost throughout, especially given the drawn out and entirely musical opening sequence).

Melancholia manages to portray the subject of depression in a unique and engaging way, while the movie is certainly quite long and slow moving, it doesn't feel like a moment is wasted, the relationship between the two female leads is greatly written, and both roles are played perfectly.

My rating: 4/5

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