[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B005PWVK52][/pullquote] Melancholia, sadness, depression. A perfect word that encompasses Lars von Trier’s film making technique. Melancholia is the oddest disaster movie ever made, with no reference to the impending doom until over half way through, many may seem perplexed with the plot. A new planet has emerged from behind the sun and is on a crash course with Earth minus the special effects.
Similar to Antichrist, von Trier begins Melancholia in the same fashion, with slow moving, artistic visuals that would not look out of a place as a art installation. The main characters are introduced whilst going about their day, but not in the normal sense, each scene is steeped in gloom and foreboding. Visually the start is eye catching and interesting, but confusion reigns from beginning until end.
Something bad is going to happen, the question is when? Kirsten Dunst (Justine) heads up a cast of heavy weights, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Gainsbourg, John Hurt, Alexander and Stellan Skarsgard in this project. Dunst has moved away from her usual rom com ditzy characters and taken on a role of complete complexity, darkness and seriousness. The film cuts to her wedding day as her and her new husband Michael (Alexander SkarsgÃ¥rd) head to their reception at her sisters beautiful country manor set back from the ocean.
The first segment of Melancholia focuses on this special day, marrying someone you love more than anything else is meant to be joyfully spent with family and friends. Justine (Dunst) however seems to find the whole performance tiring, with no real excitement at being there. Her family and friends seem to have issues with her, perhaps with the end of the world looming this seemed like the right time to let all problems come to head. Her mother hates the institution of marriage and scornfully offers up her words of wisdom at inappropriate moments (during the Grooms speech).
Her sister (Gainsbourg) seems to be the stable rock in her life, but no longer wants to deal with her problems. The brother-in-law (Sutherland) is generally annoyed at his wife’s family at how atrocious their behaviour is. Last but not least Stellan Skarsgard plays the arrogant boss sucking out any life that Justine has left. So far Lars von Trier could happily submit Melancholia for the Worst Wedding of The Year Award, as the Groom leaves the bride heading off into the dark with his family.
Half way through Melancholia and I am thinking when will this end, but am also desperate to find what the elephant in the room is, and why Dunst is so self absorbed and depressed, is she dying? Bored?
The second half of Melancholia focuses on Claire (Gainsbourg) and how her life revolves around Justine and now, the end of the world. Justine, who seems to have manic depression comes to stay seeing as their last moments on earth are hurtling towards them at a rapid pace. The family are now obsessed with catching a glimpse of Melancholia (aptly named) and debating over the chances of it missing and life carrying on. Up until now Dunst has played the crazed and manic sister who seems to care about nothing, but over the last hour the audience see’s the switch between characters. When dealing with the end of her life and her family’s Claire looses it, reality slowly slips and she becomes the unstable sibling, looking at Justine to make sense of things. Sutherland who throughout seemed together and logical also slips off the edge.
The first half of Melancholia highlights the tensions that many families experience, either on important days such as this, or in general. Life is tumultuous and the happy Hollywood formula of making life look peachy definitely got ousted when this was written. The film disjointedly runs through two days in a life of a family who don’t know whether they are coming or going. The scenes are hard to follow and for the cinema goer who likes simplicity and easy plots, I definitely advise to NOT watch this. With half the audience walking out because of sheer boredom Lars von Trier has created a product that you will either love or hate. I still don’t know where I stand after much debate.