Archive for April, 2012

Fighting depression and the end of the world: A look at Melancholia

Posted in Drama, Interesting... with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2012 by judsonw

What if humanity discovered another planet that’s been hiding behind the sun since the beginning of the age of man. Would there be celebration? Or fear of the unknown as something capable of destroying our planet approaches closer? In Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, that question is one of many that is thrust upon the audience.

The story is split into two parts, each part devoted to a sister. The first part is about Justine (Kirsten Dunst) as she battles her severe depression on her wedding night. Her party is being thrown by her sister Claire in an enormously beautiful golf course resort that Claire and her family live on. Though everything is made perfectly for Justine, she can’t be happy. She seems to have everything but feels she has nothing.

It’s hard to watch this section of the film and not be frustrated. Justine comes across as ungrateful, selfish and even mean-spirited at times for someone who has a very privileged life. To put it simply, you just want to smack her and tell her to look on the bright side of things. Though this section is terribly depressing and seems to go on forever, it tackles an important issue. There are people like Justine all over the world, who simply can’t be happy. Dunst’s performance here is very strong and convincing. Though we’re not sure why Justine is so unhappy, the occasional blank stare at the table or the solitary walk on the golf course makes us believe that this girl has been through a lot.

The second section of the film is devoted to Claire and her fear of an approaching planet the size of the sun. She’s scared and is trying to find anything that will tell her that her fears are not unfounded. You see, there’s some people out there who believe that this planet, called (not subtly) Melancholia, is going to crash into Earth. Claire’s husband (Kiefer Sutherland) says this is nonsense. In his mind, this is a grand opportunity. He has his telescope primed and ready for the “fly by.”

It’s hard to describe the tone of the movie as the ending nears since it has so much to do with how it makes the viewer feel in that moment. Dread. Terrible, awful dread. As I watched these characters deal with impending doom, questions raced through my head. What would I do? Who would I be with? What would I say? The entire film takes place on the huge golf course resort so there’s no media coverage of the approaching planet nor do we see any other people dealing with the phenomenon. Finally, a disaster movie not about crashing buildings and flaming meteors, but about human beings. This is Lars Von Trier’s version of a disaster movie.

I can’t say I’m a fan of Von Trier. His movies come across as pretentious, mastabatory, over the top, and controversial for the sake of being controversial. This is the man who made a woman cutting off her clitoris the climax of his film, Antichrist. This is the man who caused Bjork to never act in a film again because her experience working with him was so scarring. This is the man who recently made some very public pro-Hitler comments.

That being said, I’m glad I watched Melancholia. It’s definitely not a feel good movie (quite the opposite, in fact), but it made me ask myself questions that I normally wouldn’t. So on that I say suck it, Roland Emmerich and your noisy disaster movies. Melancholia is a disaster movie that allows you to see more of yourself.