“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Lars Von Trier / Actors: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt ... / DVD released 2012-01-23 at Artificial Eye / Features of the DVD: PAL „
Star - Kirsten Dunst
Genre - Drama
County - USA
Certificate - 15
Run Time - 136 minutes
Blockbusters - £3 per night
Amazon - £.00 DVD (£Blue Ray)
I'm a big fan of Lars Von Trier, his interesting stripped down style of filmmaking, known as 'Dogme95', allowing the director to really get to grips with the vulnerability of people and to dissect that human condition on film like a skilled surgeon, Italian For Beginners a must see, but a director less celebrated by the mainstream punters and studios because he refuses to be commercial. Although Melancholia breaks most of those Dogme95 rules and a sign that Von Trier can command bigger budgets to apply more conventional filmmaking techniques, its still a movie that sticks to those core emotional human themes his films wallow in like a pig in you know what - that of love, depression and the certainty of death, and so will yet again alienate many conventional film fans. Ingmar Bergman would be proud of this one it's that foreboding and grim.
The 10 Dogme95 rules....
1. Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found.
2.The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed.
3. The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.
4. The film must be in color. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
6. The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now).
8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
10. The director must not be credited.
You can't get a more desolate line to open a film than: 'life is only on Earth...and not for long', certainly setting the tone here. But to a confessed manic depressive like Von Trieir it's a decree that if you are going to enjoy my film (if that's possible) I'm prepared to destroy the world to let you taste my nihilism.
The morose central emotion of the film of not being able to escape the certainty of death ( in this case impact with Earth from a giant planet) came from his therapist, who told him that depressive people tend to act more calmly than others under heavy pressure, because they already expect bad things to happen, a rogue planet barreling towards earth the type of thing they presumably look forward too. Maybe that planet is a metaphor for the burden they carry and, indeed, think the whole world is against them but whatever it is, it makes for an extraordinary and somewhat testing movie, visually and emotionally.
Kirsten Dunst ... Justine
Charlotte Gainsbourg ... Claire
Alexander Skarsgård ... Michael
Brady Corbet ... Tim
Cameron Spurr ... Leo
Charlotte Rampling ... Gaby
Jesper Christensen ... Little Father
John Hurt ... Dexter
Stellan Skarsgård ... Jack
Kiefer Sutherland ... John
Twenty-something Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is getting married to Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) in a big country house resort owned by her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a good turnout enjoying fine wine and good food. Justine has a good job but only getting married to please those friends and family who have tolerated her mood swings, a manic depressive looking for what is perceived as happiness though marriage, mum Gaby (Charlotte Rampling) only to aware of that deceit and digging at her daughter during the toasts. Her sister is the only one who really understands her melancholic condition and knows the wedding will be tough for her. Brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) has shelled out a lot for the event in support of his wife Clair and neither happy when Justine starts to do what she does at the reception and weekend.
As the wedding quickly descends down hill and her new husband realizes his mistake, his new wife is soon wandering off around the grounds in her pristine white dressing gown, her new life the last thing on her mind as the moonlight catches here soulless eyes, a strange sense of foreboding gripping her as she looks up in the night sky, curious at a glowing red star like object that shouldn't be in the middle of a very familiar constellation.
We meet Claire and John with their kids after the wedding, the champagne glasses washed, the silver cutlery packed away, alone in the big house with Justine, who didn't go on her honeymoon, alas.
John is an astronomer and we learn the bright red star from the golf course moment is in fact a huge planet, drifting through the solar system, named Melancholia, preassembly a big news item with the rest of the world, which we never see. John assures his nervy wife that the planet will pass by Earth and merely make for a spectacular show and no as big as the moon in the night sky, the kids excited about the event, Justine emotionless either way. But when a small simple tool that John makes from some wire to reassure Claire and the kids that the planet has comes as close as it will, does the opposite and suggest its not doing what it should be doing, the anxiety rises and the worse could be about to happen. It's almost as if Justine's intense anxiety and sadness is pulling the planet towards Earth to destroy everyone, the equanimity melancholic's lust over. Everyday is the end of the word for these guys after all.
The films unusual and pretensions opening may immediately put you off, and the film does take a while to get going so don't expect this film to be easy, certainly not a Sci-fi movie as hinted. But the last half-hour is very atmospheric and eerily beautiful and worth the rent just for that crescendo of sound and vision alone, an ending event on film about as common as a new planet drifting through the Solar System.
Von Trier's central point of the film seems to be that melancholic's can handle coming tragedy as valediction that all is indeed terrible in the world, comfortable with everything being negative and down at their level. People that enjoy the winter and the long dark nights do it because the happy people no longer have summer, is my feeling about melancholy. Whatever the message fair play for the director trying to put such a complex metaphor on screen. Using a huge planet as that coming anxiety attack is inspired.
Writers and film critics are notorious for suffering depression and probably why the film press uniformly loved this movie. It takes one to know one, after all. The stunning Penelope Cruz was set to play the Justine part but pulled out at the last and so it was left to Kirsten Dunst to take on what is a very tough role, a lightweight actress who really had to work hard to make it work here, which she does brilliantly, a career defining performance and a long way away from her safe romcom stuff that pays the mortgage. She can be very irritating at times and you wouldn't mind if a planet occasionally did hit her full in the face so to wipe that vacuous grin off it! The eclectic mix of other interesting actors on show, like Kiefer Sutherland and the always mischievous Charlotte Rampling, also add depth to the ambitious movie. Charlotte Gainsbourg is set for great things, another superb performance here.
The beginning of the film is the end of the film to take away any suspense from proceedings so we can concentrate on the metaphors and emotions of the piece, the haunting soundtrack of strange distant rumblings and vibrations creepy as it is mysterious, beautifully complemented by Wagner's angst ridden string symphonies. In fact the ending of the film is the most stunning cinematic one you will see, a movie full of striking scenes to go with. Lars Von Trier is like no other filmmaker.
I can't say I was overwhelmed by this movie but I got enough from it to justify the rent. It is an acquired taste. It's a film made by melancholics for melancholics. From its $7 million budget it did $15 million back, about right for an arty mid-budget indie, but an unprecedented return for a Lars Von Trier film, a sign we may see yet more ambitious movies from him to come although don't expect him to be directing Transformer 4 any day soon.
Imdb.com - 7.2 /10.0 (64,145 votes)
Metacritc.com - 80% critic's approval rating
Rottentomatos.com -77% critic's approval rating
The Guardian - 'A strange mix of apocalyptic sci-fi and darkly comic social drama, the film is glacially slow in tempo but filled with stunning, gorgeously shot images. It will annoy as many viewers as it charms'.
The San Francisco Times - 'For all his bluff and bluster, Lars Von Trier is often remarkably adept at examining the human condition and Melancholia is no exception'.
The Metro - 'It's impossible not to be moved in a profound way by the small events that take place within the larger one'.
Reel times -'While existence hangs in the balance in Melancholia, von Trier's fatalistic embrace of impending doom is starkly beautiful and strangely reassuring'.
= = = = = Special Features = = = = =
Time Magazine - 'For stretches of the film, von Trieria is as welcome as Siberia. You must stay to the end for a potent payoff, when the tragic magic of the opening scenes is reasserted'
= = = Special Features = = =
- The Making of Melancholia -
Behind the scenes with Lars and his cast.
Real scientist discusses what would happen if a planet got too close or could hit us.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
**FILM ONLY REVIEW**
This is possibly the worst type of film for someone like me, as I have a minor phobia about the world ending suddenly, something that isn't helped by the misconception that because the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, that the world is set to end this year also. I became aware of the film, Melancholia, as a trailer preceding a Japanese-language showing of 'Arrietty' in Curzon's Soho cinema (a very art-house cinema in London) and from the trailer I could tell that this was a different type of apocalyptic movie to the likes of '2012' and 'The Day after Tomorrow'.
Despite my better judgment, I placed this film on my 'Love Film' list and eventually it plopped on my doormat like its own miniature, DVD-sized Armageddon, tempting me to watch it. Even though I fully expected it to re-enforce my fears of a sudden global extermination, I set aside a night to watch it, although due to the length of the film, I broke it down to two nights.
I was in two minds whether to avoid mentioning the climax of the film, but since it is revealed in the opening five minutes of the movie, it seems like this is one of those films which focuses on the journey rather than the destination. The very orchestral opening, set to Wagner's piece "Tristan und Isolde", displays several recurring motifs that appear in the main plot in a slow-motion, culminating in a shot from space depicting a giant planet (Melancholia) crashing into our planet, presumably killing all life upon it. Wow...
The film is separated into two parts - each part focusing on one of two sisters, Justine and Claire (played by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg). The first part belongs to Justine, a newly-wed, arriving at her wedding reception with her husband and we see her descend into depression as she struggles to maintain the happy façade that her husband and family members force upon her. It is a fascinating look into depression and so very character-driven that it's easy to forget that you had witnessed the end of the world earlier. It does run quite long, but because I split the film into two and watched each part over two consecutive nights, I found it flowed quite well and let the characters live one more day in my heads before continuing on with their inevitable demise.
The second half belongs to Claire, and takes place some time after the events of the first part. We witness the current state of Justine, following her actions in the earlier storyline, and we see Claire's anxiety about the upcoming 'fly by' of the planet Melancholia. This is the more compelling of the two halves, focusing on the Claire's attempts at keeping calm in the face of a potential extinction, and it is interesting to watch the contrast with the strangely calm, Justine, who seems to be drained of emotion due to her illness.
The film is shot in a documentary-esque camera style, with lots of quick cuts and wobbly camera moments. This may be an effort to make the viewer feel a greater sense of realism to the events and to feel part of the proceedings. While it is effective in making you feel present at the wedding reception, it does distract from the film in some places, especially in the second half of the movie where a different approach to the camera technique would have been welcomed.
Kirsten Dunst picked up lots of accolades, including Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, but I found Charlotte Gainsbourg's character to be the more convincing and well-acted. Perhaps it is due to the nude scene that Kirsten Dunst attracted more attention than her co-star? I also found Kiefer Sutherland to be particularly good as the confident astrologist, John, and enjoyed his reactions to the bizarre behaviour of the women in his life.
This was a refreshing look at the 'end of the world' genre and it took a very human approach to the subject matter, unlike the big blockbuster epics. There was no last-minute saviours, no lesson to be learned about how we treat the planet - it was completely out of our control and to be honest, that's the scariest aspect for me. The film definitely got me thinking about how I would react to the same news, and whether I would take the easy way out, or try to embrace those final moments with my loved ones. Let's hope we don't need to find out later on this year...
[This Review may also be posted on Amazon & Ciao.co.uk]
Danish director Lars von Trier has certainly made a name for himself in the film industry as a man not afraid to experiment and push boundaries and to never shy away from difficult subjects with his own creative, unflinchingly brutal yet often beautiful style. The common factor with his films such as Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, Manderlay and Antichrist is people will either love or hate them, but regardless of which, will probably talk about them for hours afterwards to unpick the complexity of each story. Melancholia (2011) is a strangely compelling film that could well leave you stunned at the end of it all. The premise is that a planet, Melancholia, knocked out of a nearby solar system, has been hiding behind the Sun and has just recently made itself known by being set on a potential collision course to Earth having swung past Mercury and Venus on the way. Despite the severity of the situation this is just a mere backdrop to what is ultimately a detached exploration of human behaviour, human frailty and relationship dynamics, mainly between two sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who are poles apart with Claire as the sensible sister with a normal family life and Justine as the mentally ill, depressed, dare I say melancholic opposite, but also delves into their interactions with the other people in their lives.
The plot is hard to describe whilst remaining spoiler free, though to be honest, I think the final ending is given away within the first 5 minutes of the film and this is more about the journey rather than the destination. Basically, the film is divided into two parts - part one from Justine's point of view depicts her rather uncomfortable wedding reception where suspicions to her state of mind are aroused by some bizarre behaviour, and part two, in contrast, shows Claire clinically picking up the pieces from the aftershocks of the wedding by acting as nurse to Justine in her severely distressed state who moves in with Claire, her rich husband John (Keifer Sutherland) and their son Leo (Cameron Spurr) and we see how this affects our sisters whose relationship is one of familial responsibility rather than a close sisterly bond. So, was this movie a masterpiece of human exploration or a pretentious waste of time? I definitely fall into the masterpiece category, but I can see how easy it would be for others to fall into the pretentious category so once again Melancholia is no exception to the unwritten rule I've made for Lars von Trier films as it certainly had me stewing over it for hours afterwards, and is certainly not to be forgotten in a hurry as you unwittingly and subconsciously peel away the layers of this film searching for some kind of resolution to it all.
The pace of this film, considering the danger of epic proportions affecting our main players, is surprisingly slow but is inexplicably compelling viewing, probably down to the captivating performances from both Dunst and Gainsbourg, and is at no point ever boring, though others may well disagree with me. The wedding reception scenes in part one, which begin life as a happy bride and groom on their way to celebrate a day of joy, gradually and subtly turn into a display of acute dysfunction between practically everyone there and the underlying feeling that something is terribly wrong with the whole affair leaves you in a state of suspension as you are waiting for tensions just bubbling under the surface to break free, but due to the clinical nature of the exploration and the propensity for people to keep things bottled inside they never do with any real intensity. It takes well over an hour to tell this part, and to be honest very little actually happens action wise, but the cracks start to appear and if nothing else it is fascinating to watch some odd human interaction at play in a very surreal kind of way. Part two is a total counterbalance with a much colder, harsher but realistic feel to it, with both parts undoubtedly reflecting the personalities of our two girls even though the stories are told from an observer's point of view. Each sister's role in the world is clearly defined at the beginning, but as the story progresses towards the inevitable conclusion the most poignant and affecting element to this film comes in how the line between these roles become blurred and even swapped to a certain extent which gives food for thought.
I could ramble on for ages about hidden metaphorical meanings and the profound complexities of the human condition but really, many parts of this film are open to your own personal interpretations and different people will take different things away from it, so until you've seen it you will probably have no idea if you will like it or not. The thing that really swung it for me was the beautiful way the story was told with von Trier's stamp all over it. It wasn't really a big budget movie and the special effects were fairly limited with fleeting moments at the beginning and end with hauntingly stunning images of the planet Melancholia a somewhat grim spectre of doom and a very strange slow motion montage at the beginning completely out of context to the rest of the film, but hooking you right from the start to try to decipher the meaning of it all. Settings were few, but with the greenery of a golf course (look out for the mysterious 19th hole) and a lovely house and landscape there really was a wondrous splendour to it all at odds with the dark and grim nature of the film. This was enhanced by the subtleness and natural beauty of the altered night (and day) sky with the appearance of Melancholia and how this affects things such on Earth such as creating double shadows, or the odd behaviour of Justine. Another noticeable thing was the soundtrack relying on just the one tune so was used sparingly just to symbolise the most dramatic of scenes which was Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde", a rather epic composition that was unusual in the fact it was a highly emotional piece which is somewhat absent from the majority of the film.
But it was the acting that really blew me away. Gainsbourg was spell-binding with her subtle shifts from wife, to mother, to nurse to her sister and her fear over Melancholia was agonisingly palpable. She was equalled by the performance from Dunst, the often unfairly berated actress, who never over played her part but was able to portray her crippling depression in a truly moving and believable way, and certainly was not afraid to lay herself bare, both figuratively and literally, and was clearly 100% committed to the role. There were a few other supporting roles of merit, with John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling as the estranged parents to Justine and Claire showing that dysfunction exists across all generations and their aloof and bitter treatment of their daughters just added to the complexity of their relationship dynamics. Alexander Skarsgård, who has found True Blood fame, played Michael, Justine's ill-fated husband and he was another cog in this weird machine, and he underplayed his part fantastically, by allowing Michael's true feelings to appear only through subtle changes in his demeanour. Keifer Sutherland was also great in the role as John, the patriarch if his family who was a good and understanding father and husband with a genuinely loving connection to his wife and son, but with a slightly authoritative side to his personality which made him a little domineering. His seemingly rational and strong personality is certainly put to the test in this film and how he reacts under the strain is another talking point along with all the other different reactions to events by other characters. A little shining star in the film has to be Cameron Spurr as Leo, with Melancholia as his only role so far, whose portrayal of confusion to adult themes beyond his comprehension and his childlike fears and tragic realisations another source of wonderment.
But there are a few potential flaws to this film. The use of handheld cameras with the obvious intent to make this all about the observation without prejudice did make for shaky camera work. I'll admit that I didn't notice that at all when I was watching this on a small screen but I can imagine on the big screen this may have been a bit unpleasant. Secondly, I was not altogether convinced by certain elements of the science such as how likely it was Melancholia could just be wandering about the universe, plus how the course of Melancholia was altered by our gravitational pull without its own affecting us, yet it was able to steal our atmosphere the closer it got. But, to be fair, this film is classed as Science Fiction, so liberties are probably allowed if it gets the point across. Throughout this review I've tried to express my own interpretations which will probably not be shared by all people, but this film is steeped in metaphors, parallels and contrasts as well as being a bleak and brutally honest analysis of human behaviour set to a thoroughly unusual backdrop which is both a visually stunning and inexplicably affecting film. It has a 15 certificate on account of high levels of grimness and is quite long at 2 hours and 16 minutes but love it or hate it, you will be thinking about it for hours afterwards.
The Making of Melancholia
* About Melancholia - 11 minutes of footage and thoughts from Lars von Trier, Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and a psychologist named Irene Oestrich trying to explain the purpose of the movie.
* Melancholia Visual Effects - a very interesting 7 minute piece describing the processes in creating the visual effects, and how everything in the film was based on real footage even if it was manipulated to fit in, for example using the Northern Lights.
* The Universe - a 4 minute piece explaining about the science, with insights from astrophysicist Michael J.D. Linden-Vornle which still didn't reassure me about the science in this film but it was still plausible enough with some interesting insights.
* The Visual Style - 10 minutes describing choices made for filming choices, particularly why the handheld cameras were used, plus insights into the unusual filming techniques Lars von Trier employs which causes the actors to improvise a little.
* Interesting interviews with Lars von Trier, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, which were a bit weird as they were responding to questions that were edited out so you felt a bit like you were playing Double Jeopardy! in trying to guess the questions. A lot of the footage here also appears in the Making of features which feels like a bit of a cheat too.
* A cryptic and slightly dramatic trailer - perhaps a little misleading, but what trailer isn't?
Kirsten Dunst's Cannes Best Actress Award winning performance in Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" is certainly worth a look, even if the Danish director frequently causing trouble and stirring up controversies (the latest one being von Trier admitting that he understands Hitler which invited all sorts of criticism from international press) is not greatly to your liking. His films are depressing, and almost always see victimised women getting into unimaginably difficult situations through very little fault of their own. A rule to which "Melancholia" is no exception. This time, the world is ending, and not in the metaphorical way. Life on Earth will actually come to an abrupt finish. There is a large planetary body called Melancholia. What was suspected to pass harmlessly is now on a head-on collision course, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop that. But the planet itself serves no further purpose than for von Trier to subject his female characters through some tough ordeals. This the director staying true to his style and trademark, whilst incorporating a new theme.
Of course, most characters are not initially aware of this mysterious foreign planet that will mark the end of their lives. We look at the complex lives of two sisters, Justine (Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Justine, the younger of the two, has just gotten married to a charming, dedicated man ("True Blood"'s Alexander Skarsgaard), although she does not seem to be over the moon about her nuptials. She appears to be a victim of depression, and her highly unpredictable, repressed behaviour that struggles to sustain her marriage and even herself threatens to ruin her existence. After a lengthy, intense slow-motion opening in which the thunderous soundtrack from Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" signals the world's end, and the audience gets a glimpse of "The End," we focus back to Justine, heading up to her sister's lavish countryside mansion for her after party, in which many wedding traditions are supposed to be carried out (the first dance, the cutting of the cake, etc). But looking so distant and vulnerable, we worry whether she will make it through the night.
Not helpful, are her bitterly divorced parents, who have reluctantly united under one roof for the sake of their daughter's wedding. But of course, not everything goes smoothly. Their fierce and possibly a little drunk mother (the unforgettably sharp and piercing Charlotte Rampling) openly lashes out at her ex-husband who is proudly accompanied by a younger lover, and is AWOL during most of the party. She is highly uncooperative, and we begin to wonder why she came to this in the first place. This tense, uncomfortable atmosphere is not what Claire's filthy rich husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) wanted, who incidentally paid for everything himself.
The stress becomes unbearable for the already damaged Justine, and after the disaster that is her wedding reception, she suffers a breakdown. And this is one of many aspects in which Dunst excels in her mature, sincere performance. She doesn't have an emotional freak-out, but instead slowly descends into a state of complete hollow mental state in which she cannot bring herself to do or care for anything. Her performance is a wonderfully measured and grounded one, firmly holding on to the film's emotional core. Dunst reportedly used her own experience from depression as a source for playing her character. Well it works, and it works brilliantly. Distancing herself from everyone, including her husband and her sister, she is constantly in a blank, self-destructive state, and everything becomes meaningless to the heroine.
However there is one thing that Justine becomes fascinated by: the incoming planet. Convinced that the Earth they are currently living on is "evil," Justine welcomes the planet, and is not afraid of the inevitable consequence. Claire, who has a lot more to lose, acts differently. As the seemingly calm and collected one taking care of her younger sibling in the first half, she becomes paranoid whenever the planet becomes larger in her eyes. Despite her idealistic and optimistic husband's assurance that Melancholia will cause no harm, Claire's mind also starts to wobble, at the thought of losing everyone she loves, including her innocent young son.
Claire and Justine don't share the easiest of relationships and this is shown clearly through yet another excellent female performance in this film. Gainsbourg, although showing warmth towards her sister, also lets out some cold air towards her, letting her frustration and annoyance seep through in her steadfast treatment of Justine. Hers is also an impeccably layered and detailed performance, one that beautifully matches Dunst's. Gainsbourg has worked with von Trier before in the much more graphic and unsubtle "Antichrist," in which she played a mentally unstable, ultimately violent protagonist. Here she is much quieter and restrained, although not without the usual intensity the talented actress can portray on screen. She cannot stop obsessing over Melancholia's size and the proximity of the planet to Earth, and towards the second half it's Justine, the younger, seemingly more damaged sibling, having to stand firm whilst her older sister turns into a blubbering mess.
Von Trier has that exceptional skill of turning the most unlikely subject into extraordinarily beautiful art form. Some perceive this as pretentious offering, but what he manages in "Melancholia" is simply gorgeous to look at, although the most dramatic moments do require patience to truly set in. He is terribly fond of that Wagner soundtrack, which he uses to its maximum level as it crescendoes and crescendoes to the whopping big finale. It's an awe-inspiring, unforgettably charged moment of wonder, from a director who usually tends to stay away from using grand special effects. But von Trier never forgets whose story he wants to tell. This is about the mental unravelling of two sisters facing the Apocalypse, and he never steers away from his pitch-perfect, outstanding leads. It's not an easy film to watch by any means, any film by von Trier carries with it a certain kind of expectation that it won't be a mood-lifting, particularly joyful film, but the gripping dynamic between the two central women, surrounded by impending disaster, is completely original, and oddly sensational. The director's reputation and his anti-social nature might have made the film hard to advertise for and to attract much attention upon its release, but now that the controversy has almost settled down, it's about time to focus on his actual work, without prejudice, and marvel at his wondrous new cinematic achievement.
Every now and then, you see a film that you just can't stop thinking about. For days afterwards, you find yourself haunted by how beautiful or thought provoking it was and you seek out other people who have seen it so you can talk at length about it. Melancholia is one of those films.
I went to see it at the cinema last Monday without having any idea whatsoever what it was about. My boyfriend and I went to the cinema just for something to do and so decided to go and see whatever film started the earliest after us arriving. Although he knew that it was a Lars von Trier film he was also in the dark as to the film's plot, which is an ideal way to go and see a film, in my opinion, as then you don't have any expectations whatsoever. I will therefore only give the barest minimum in terms of plot description in the hope that, should you also decide to go and see it, you go in without knowing what is going to happen.
== Melancholia ==
Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is getting married. While this is supposed to be the happiest day of her life, she cannot shake her overwhelming sense of melancholy. Much to her sister Claire's (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband John's (Kiefer Sutehrland) annoyance, Justine spends much of the party locked in the bathroom or generally being nowhere to be found. Her deep depression is not helped by her divorced parents' hostility towards each other or her mother's speech on the pointlessness of marriage. But what has caused Justine to so lose her joie de vivre and instead feel that she is traipsing through deep mud without hope of getting out?
== My thoughts ==
As was probably made clear by my introduction, I adored this film. The film's beautifully atmospheric opening was so impressive and arty, and though its relaxing Wagner soundtrack almost lulled me off to sleep, this really set the melancholic and dramatic tone of the film. Through the rest of the film I was haunted by the beginning shots of planets circling each other and of Justine standing in her wedding dress or walking while held back by vines.
The film's portrayal of depression and how it affects families as well as the individual suffering from the illness was also done in an often chillingly accurate way. The audience often share the feeling of irritation felt towards Justine by some of the characters, such as by her brother-in-law John, who doesn't understand why she is 'ruining' her wedding that he paid for. We see also, however, the love between sisters Justine and Claire, as Claire tries desperately to care for her sister without really knowing how to or what is wrong. I feel that is captured the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness which are symptoms of depression and of helping someone suffering from depression accurately but tactfully.
=== Acting ===
The acting in Melancholia was also sublime. I almost didn't recognise Kirsten Dunst at first, as her body language and facial expressions in her depiction of her deeply troubled character. She really carried the film and managed to play the part of a woman who can only cope with appearing happy for so long with grace and true acting skill. Charlotte Gainsbourg was also exceptional as Claire, who played the part of caring sister as well as wife and mother well. She's an actress whom I recognise from many things without being able to remember exactly what I've seen her in, but has nevertheless made a great impression on me in this film. Cameron Spurr was also excellent as Claire and John's young son, Leo, especially considering that this was his film debut.
=== Cinematography and Atmosphere ===
One of the things that has most stuck with me from this film is its atmosphere. The beginning sets the tone perfectly though the atmosphere doesn't really wane throughout. While the film gets increasingly tense in parts as the film progresses, it is quietly sad throughout and the emotions of the characters are easily shared by the viewers.
This is a film that I was very happy to have seen on the big screen as so much of it was beautifully shot, with the opening ten minutes being particularly worth the cost of a cinema ticket. There are many brilliant birds eye view shots of the countryside as well as wide shots of the grounds of the family's house and the sea and sky beyond.
=== Other Things ==
On reflection, one of my favourite things about the film is that it appeared to be set everywhere and nowhere. While Claire and her parents had English accents, her sister Justine was most definitely American, as were Claire's husband and son. Wedding guests also spanned the Atlantic with many Scandinavian names to be found, but most interestingly of all, it was never obvious in which country this film was set. We never see a car number plate or a reference to any local town or city, with the house's proximity to 'the village' the only geographical reference we are given. I assume that this is meant to allude to the fact that human tragedy affects everyone, regardless of where on the Earth we find ourselves. Melancholy, illness and disaster are not unique to one corner of the globe.
== In Conclusion ==
In short, this was a masterpiece of a film and as such I do not hesitate in giving it 5/5 and recommending it highly. While it is probably not one to see on a day in which you are feeling particularly down, it is still one that I would advise that most people see. It's also the type of film that you continue to enjoy even more after having seen it, as little details that didn't make sense to you on first viewing it suddenly have significance in the context of the whole story. I imagine that I'll definitely watch this film again at a later date and it's unlikely that it'll leave my mind for quite some time yet.