Movie review: Melancholia
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Drama
Opens locally Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
Run Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgard,
Stellan Skarsgard, Keifer Sutherland
Written & Directed by Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist)
Have you ever had that overwhelming feeling that your world is about to crash head-on into a wall? Well that wall is “Melancholia,” which is actually the name of a planet (in this film anyways) that is quite literally on a collision course with Earth.
We know from the opening scenes that we are in for a strange ride. In super-slow motion, we witness a bride running, and a mother clutching her child. The mesmerizing opening sequence goes on a bit too long, but somehow feels meaningful, unlike the pretentious opening sequence in this year’s “Tree of Life.” Here, we are captivated by the chilling images, but also forewarned of the doom lurking ahead.
Things begin once you get through the first ten minutes or so. The movie is split up into 2 parts, “Justine,” and “Claire,” who happen to be sisters. It is Justine’s wedding day, but we soon find that this is one of the strangest family get-togethers ever. Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, and she floats through the film somehow balancing spirit with numbness of being. She seems to have true chemistry with her groom, played by “True Blood’s” Alexander Skarsgard, even though they hardly speak to one another. Claire at first seems like she may be the only “normal” one in the bunch, but the second half of the film has us delving deeper into her story. The family bickers and has run-ins, while Justine leaves her own wedding repeatedly…sometimes just to get away and other times to act on some impulses that are unexplainable.
So what’s this about a planet colliding with Earth? You never really understand, and that’s the eerie tragedy of “Melancholy.” The plot may lead you to think “Armageddon,” but there is no mission to save Earth. There is no world view at all, we simply get the limited perspective of this wedding and its inhabitants. These folks are celebrating a marriage, knowing that the world will soon end. All is meaningless in the grand scheme, yet people still will be people, so caught up in the minutia of everyday life that they fail to see the bigger picture.
Wonderful performances keep you interested even when you are waiting to see where the film is headed. Much talk will be made of Kirsten Dunst, who is great here, but Charlotte Gainsbourg is just as deserving of praise. For Dunst, this is her 2nd straight amazing performance on the heels of last year's little-seen "All Good Things." And be sure to give credit to director and writer Lars von Trier, who creates a stark and haunting film that tends to stick with you for quite a while.
I can say with confidence that “Melancholia” is not a movie for everybody, even for those who stick around for the entire 136 minutes. But for a film that speaks in metaphor, I found it to be beautifully translated to the layman…a somehow-relatable “high-brow” tale about life, depression, and self. Ultimately that’s the question raised in
“Melancholia:” When obstacles in your life are overwhelming you, what should you do? Should you face them head on? Act as though they don’t exist? What a powerful and sobering message, that it may not matter one way or the other, as some obstacles are inevitable.
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