Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling
The end is night, but hopefully not for Lars’ film-making career!
Lars Von Trier is a man I admire very much as a director, but not as a person. He may come across as the cuddly and vulnerable Dane in his interviews but this is a self-confessed pervert who makes sick jokes about sympathising with Hitler and a misogynist who had an affair with his very own babysitter. Lars is not a pleasant man. However, his films are often remarkable. They can range from the boringly pretentious (The Idiots) to the emotionally sublime (Dancer in the Dark) but they always provoke a strong reaction and he isn’t afraid to push the envelope. I’m please to say that Melancholia is another near-masterpiece from Lars.
I reacted to Melancholia in an extremely similar way to the first film in his depression trilogy, Antichrist. When I first saw Antichrist I didn’t know what to think really. I found a lot of it boring, yet I was continuously fascinated with it. After it finished, I couldn’t get it out of my head and I knew that I wanted to see it again. I know consider it a remarkable horror film and don’t find it boring at all on subsequent viewings. Similarly, once Melancholia finished I didn’t know if I liked it or not, but I couldn’t get it out of my head and I knew that I wanted to see it again.
After reading some fascinating analysis’ and allowing the film to sink in a bit, I now consider it a thoroughly interesting work of brilliance. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Melancholia, but I didn’t expect what I got. I knew the film was going to be something pretty amazing from the gorgeous opening. It’s reminiscent of the extraordinary prologue to Antichrist as it depicts perfect, artistic shots in slow motion with classical music being played. Many would find it pretentious, and perhaps it is, but I loved it. I was transfixed in a way that is very similar to when I’d watch a David Lynch film. I felt mesmerised by its dream-like quality.
The first half of the film focuses on Kirsten Dunst’s character, Justine as she trudges through an awkward and stodgy wedding party. It’s slow, but I didn’t find it boring. I found it fascinating to see how the characters interact. At first glance there’s not a lot going on, but if you dig a little deeper there’s a lot of important stuff happening to Justine. She’s hiding her depression and there’s a lot of hints as to what’s causing it: Her thoroughly pessimistic mother perhaps? (wonderfully played by Charlotte Rampling) or her father who seems uninterested in her life? The closing scenes to this segment are also quite bizarre and suggest that bigger things are happening here.
The second part focuses more on Claire. Charlotte Gainsbourg is again quite brilliant in her role as a woman shaken about the idea of the world ending, but it’s Kirsten Dunst who really shines in this part as a crippled depressive who can barely walk. It’s a shattering performance and one which I didn’t think Kirsten was capable of. It’s beautifully shot by Lars and directed with his signature documentary style which makes the catastrophe feel frighteningly real and thought provoking. The film looks truly stunning in blu-ray and I’d recommend paying the extra pounds for it!
Melancholia is a slow film, but an interesting one. The second part is especially atmospheric and gorgeously captured. The film’s final scenes literally had my heart beating because the sense of panic really leaps off of the screen. The end shot is especially haunting and very symbolic. Essentially the film is saying death is inevitable and there is nothing. It’s depressing, yet incredibly interesting. Perhaps the film isn’t about the end of the world at all, but instead one huge metaphor for depression. Whatever it’s about, I found it fascinating and extremely deep. The acting is superb and the directing and cinematography are even better. It’s one which I look forward to revisiting as I think you’ll be able to get a lot out of it on second viewing.