Melancholia (2011) D: Lars von Trier

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia

From the first seconds of Melancholia, director Lars von Trier lays out an apocalyptic scenario shot with melodramatic slow motion montage set to a classical score. Everything that follows is a gnawing depression befitting the film’s title.

In this case though, Melancholia is not the archaic name for mild depression, but a planet now heading toward Earth – hopefully to pass safely by. As Melancholia begins its approach, Justine and Michael (Kirtsen Dunst and Alexander Skarsgård) are having a wedding at the sprawling estate of Justine’s sister and brother in law, Gaby and John (Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland).

The viewer soon learns all is not well among the bride and groom nor those around them. Justine is wracked with crippling depression, her domineering Mother and eccentric Father are divorced and bitter, while Gaby seems unfairly hostile towards her younger sister. Disappearing from the celebrations more than once, Justine is shown to be on the verge of complete breakdown, though the reasons are not immediately provided.

The somewhat bare-boned plot on the ground is overshadowed by the third act literally hovering in the sky. Von Trier bathes the whole film in a subdued hue of the blue of planet Melancholia which threatens to end life on Earth. A lumbering blue ball in the sky, a weakened and blue Justine and an overwhelming sense of rumbling inevitability permeate Melancholia. As the giant planet gets closer, the winds and the movement of the Earth increase along with the unease of the protagonists and the viewer.

Dunst is impressive as the defeated Justine, even subjected to von Trier’s seemingly gratuitous nude scene. Alexander Skarsgård plays a much simpler character to Eric Northman, his powerful vampire on cult TV hit True Blood, while his real life father, acting stalwart Stellan Skarsgård plays Justine’s power hungry ad agency boss with fitting lack of a soul. Kiefer Sutherland imbues John with wonder and awe at the approaching planet, yet manages to reveal his inner doubts quite effortlessly.

For some, Melancholia will seem an overly dull and dreary art film, while others will see a very well crafted representation of deep, dark depression. The labored drag of inaction and the dull blue and grey wash is the perfect way to paint melancholy, but there are occassional moments of filmic self-indulgence. What the viewer takes away will have a lot to do with what they bring. Those who’ve felt Justine’s sense of hopelessness and apathy will find more than those who haven’t.

A rolling blue ocean of dull ache and inevitability 4 stars

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~ by mfnm on October 1, 2011.

2 Responses to “Melancholia (2011) D: Lars von Trier”

  1. Typically–normally–always—I abhor any project that Kirsten Dunst is associated with. She just ticks me off–but I am rather curious about this one. Your review certainly helps–

  2. […] photo credits: https://mfnm.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/melancholia-2011-d-lars-von-trier/ […]

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