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March 19, 2012

4

Melancholia

by Franz Patrick


Melancholia (2011)
★ / ★★★★

A planet named Melancholia, about twice or thrice the size of Earth, was discovered to have been hiding behind the sun and was on its way toward us. Meanwhile, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) were newly married, left the church, and encountered limousine problems. Consequently, they were very late to their own party which reduced Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), Justine’s sister, and John (Keifer Sutherland), Claire’s husband, barely containing their frustration. The guests had been waiting for the couple to arrive for over two hours. Although Justine had a smile on her face throughout the party, much of her energy was spent trying to keep her major depression hidden. “Melancholia” astounded me in the worst ways possible. Did the end of the world montage prior to the title card needed to be so pretentious? For what felt like eternity, several characters, one curiously observing electricity coming out of her fingers, consistently occupied gorgeous backdrops but everything was in painful slow motion as the orchestra bombarded our eardrums, urging us that we were watching something epic. On the contrary, I found the sequence completely unnecessary not only because it was trying too hard to impress, but because it extirpated our feelings of anticipation. By confirming that Melancholia would eventually hit our beloved planet, I didn’t feel horror or suspense with or for the characters as they eventually faced the reality that they’d been given. Regardless, I enjoyed select scenes during the wedding party. Justine and Claire’s mother (Charlotte Rampling) was fascinating as an aging woman who despised marriage, its rituals, and the confines it set for its participants. As she moped about in the restroom–darkly amusing because it gave John, only caring about how much he’d spent in order to throw a lavish party for the bride, intense rage–and stood bitterly in the corner while everyone celebrated, I was desperate to know more about her. Meanwhile, as Justine’s depression became more unbearable for her, nearly everyone treated her even worse, somehow convinced that she was just being selfish. Justine’s family knew about her condition. It didn’t make sense why they weren’t more understanding especially since it was one of the most important days of her life. If the writer-director, Lars von Trier, had given us more background information about Justine’s relationship with her family, their cold disregard for her could have made sense. Since the screenplay didn’t allow us to understand in which angle each important family member was coming from, whether the sentiment was good or bad, I wondered why they even bothered to show up for the wedding. Halfway through, the film changed perspective. Instead of Justine’s crippling depression, it focused more on Claire’s increasing trepidation of dying. She obsessively checked the telescope and I cared less each time. I began to think about how other people from different cultures and different classes, maybe those who lived in the flavelas of Rio de Janeiro, saw the apocalypse. “Melancholia” was plagued with symbols of depression and doom but they had very little impact. I found myself needing to take Prozac because I began to feel depressed, not because of its subject matter but because I started to suspect that von Trier was eventually blasé with his work. For a movie that contained two planets–and sisters–colliding, it was insipid and, ironically, prosaic.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paragraph Film Reviews
    Mar 20 2012

    “Did the end of the world montage prior to the title card needed to be so pretentious?” – ha ha ha, I think that’s where LVT spunked all of the budget. It felt like a fashion advert with no branding (except Hunter Wellies).

    Glad I’m not alone in not liking this, just couldn’t get in to the swing of it, and bottom line was that I disliked almost every character, which made it impossible to engage with.

    Reply
    • Mar 20 2012

      What a shame. I was so excited to watch the movie (even though I’m not partial toward Dunst’s general acting). It slightly got better during the wedding party but then it unraveled so nonsensically. They couldn’t think of anything better to do before the apocalypse? #richpeopleproblems

      Reply
  2. Apr 20 2012

    Wow, I really related strongly to this movie. I was riveted the whole time. I connected both to Justine’s trying so hard to not disappoint people at the cost of her own emotional health, and to Claire’s struggle to make sense of her mortality. Really stuck with me. I do agree with you about the beginning though. Very pretentious. :)

    Reply
    • Apr 22 2012

      I’m really happy that you were able to relate to it. I wanted to relate to it, too. I’m normally a fan of von Trier but this just did not work for me. Maybe I’ll give it a second chance somewhere down the line. But not soon. I’m still kind of angry about it.

      Reply

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