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A Tale of Two Planets
Melancholia - Lars von Trier (DVD)
Member Name: SpiderJamb
Melancholia - Lars von Trier (DVD)
Advantages: Great acting, Interesting approach to an apocalypse movie
Disadvantages: Makes you worry about a similar fate one day, Overly long in places
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 fašade 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]
Summary: A Beautiful Film about the End of the World