Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The earth is evil. We don't need to grieve for it.

There have been a lot of films recently that have focused on the end of the world. Usually, the climactic event occurs in a way where the characters can attempt to flee it. Their final moments are spent running and screaming, or some desperate last act of grace and acceptance. But what if you pretty much knew exactly when it was going to happen? What would you do, how would you go out? I'm not sure about you, but I'm thinking lay naked in the moonlight.

Melancholia is a very interesting film. I had no idea what it was about prior to it arriving on my doorstep, I just knew that I had to see it. When I read the plot summary, I was very intrigued.

The film is divided into two distinct parts, but basically it's about overpowering depression and the end of the world (literally and metaphorically, I suppose). Part 1 (Justine) focuses on a wedding, where the bride is intermittently happy and uninterested. Part 2 (Claire)deals with the titular Melancholia, a planet once hidden behind the sun that is now on a collision course with Earth. Primarily connecting the two parts, is Justine, a woman mired in deep depression, played by Kirsten Dunst.

Though I found Justine frustratingly annoying and selfish, she's also deserving of our sympathy and understanding. Claire, her sister, and John, her sister's husband, show up in both stories as well, and they personify how maddening it is to deal with someone as downtrodden as Justine. Claire tries again and again, though rarely succeeds. John, well, John's basically pissed the whole time. He uses his crazy wealth to solve problems. But all the money in the world can't buy happiness in this one. Not even close.

I should mention that this film was directed by Lars von Trier. Perhaps I should be treating this film with more reverence, but since I've never seen anything else he's done, I'm going on reputation alone. Though the visual flair was a bit heavy-handed at times, I loved how unique the film was. Incredibly long shots, wild use of slo-motion and a fascinating juxtaposition of the two parts, I really enjoyed Melancholia. I've never seen anything like it. Though I will say that as often as I find myself devastated at the end of a sad story, I wasn't all that affected here, surprisingly. But, be sure - this is about as depressing a motion picture as you can find.

If the end were truly coming, I'd want to be surrounded by the Yays and Boos, wouldn't you? Let's break this one down, we're-a-long-way-from-Bring-It-On-aren't-we? style.

Her dad was a pretty cool guy. Him and his Bettys...
  • I want to cheer for every single guest at Justine's wedding. Friends, you are some patient mofos. 
  • Those lantern things were very cool. If you're not married yet, use those.
  • Little Father. Not only is your name cool as shit, but you are an incredible person.
  • Jack Bauer, I mean Kiefer Sutherland, you were worth cheering for. Way to hold it together for your family. Sort of.
  • The invention! Brilliant. It's like a rudimentary Juggs gun.
  • I enjoyed it when they would snap at her. It didn't even seem to bother her she was so far gone.
  • Justine, though I seriously hated you, I'm going to give you a Yay for two things, well three. One: Your consistency. You were a miserable bitch throughout. Well done. Two (and three): Your breasts. Sure, the world is ending and you are spiraling into the deepest of depressions, but no reason you can't strip down and air 'em out, right? Right.
  • And seriously, the concept and execution of the film. Mid-summer is always a time of sequels and reboots, seeing something unique and thought-provoking was very welcome. 
  • And finally, the ending. The end is most certainly the end.
  • The mom. She's terrible. I wonder if she has something to do with her daughter's condition?
  • Surprise! Stellan Skarsgard plays a complete douche of a character.
  • Getting denied on your wedding night is the ultimate boo. And she dropped your orchard picture? That bitch.
  • Even Claire's story is about Justine. Selfish.
  • Beating the horse? That pissed me off more than the impending elimination of mankind. Not cool.
  • Justine can't even lift her leg to get into the bath? Goodness. All kidding aside, that's likely an accurate reflection of the reality of depression. Awful.
  • And the award for BIGGEST BITCH MOVE EVER goes to John, in a shocking turn of events. Screw hay, I'm going with horseshit.
  • Even in Claire's desperation in the end, Justine can't support her. She does redeem herself a bit, but still, she's pretty steadfast in her awfulness.
  • The kid probably had more composure than everybody else. 
Bottom Line:  I was expecting to be blown away and devastated by this quiet take on the world's end. and while that didn't happen, I would still recommend this film to anyone interested in seeing depression exemplified in countless ways. Sounds fun, right?

Oh. stop. It's not like it's the end of the world.


    1. Well, you certainly chose the most accesible of Von Trier's films to start with - trust me his other work makes this one look like a happy fairytale. I too really liked the film and the way it was shot. Everyone keeps praising Dunst and gainsbourg but I was really impressed with Sutherland - he stole every scene for me.

      Those lanterns were amazing! Unless Dujardin or Idris Elba proposes I don't plan on getting married but if they do we will definetly use those! :)

    2. Yeah, that's the general vibe I'd been getting, that his other stuff is a bit, um, sad. Any ideas if I were to pick another Von Trier film?

      Sutherland? You are exactly right. I obviously related to him the entire time. I felt like I was watching a guy who needs to be in more stuff. ASAP.

      Dujardin or Elba? Nice.

      1. As I claim Von Trier should be locked somewhere without the ability to make movies I'm probaby not the right person to answer but the first half of Dogville along with its ending is good. The second part is the usual rape and humiliation nonsense.

      2. Dogville? I'm on it.

        "The usual rape and humiliation nonsense"? Are you talking about film in general or Von Trier flicks specifically?

        Maybe, I'm not in for Dogville.

      3. Von Trier flicks. I think Melancholia is the only of his films I saw where women are not repeatedly humilaited, assaulted and bullied and men come off as weak and pathethic creatures.

      4. Gotcha. I'm going to throw some of his stuff in my queue and get back to you.

        I just hear so much about him, that he's so good. But your assessment of recurring themes to combat that. Hmm.

    3. This film worked fine for me, but there was a good amount of time where it just felt like von Trier was pacing himself too much with this story. Dunst was great though, and I hope she continues to take way more roles like this in the future (nude scenes aside). Good review M.