Melancholia – review

Back in 2009, no amount of persuasion could make me go and watch Antichrist. I was digging in my heels. I’m all for pushing the boundaries of cinema, but after reading some reviews and hearing of the graphic content of sexual violence; I thought this one is not for me. Too dark! I believe this was Lars Von Trier at his most provocative, causing controversy to stir a reaction from the press. With Melancholia though, I was much more intrigued. I went to the cinema with an open mind, and waited for the controversy to unravel in front of me. I waited and waited. No controversy! Although it wouldn’t be Lars Von Trier if there was no controversy at all, and he duly obliged in a press conference at Cannes Film Festival.

An apocalyptic tale juxtaposed with the study of two characters; Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). The film firstly focuses on Justine, it begins with her travelling to her wedding reception in a limo along a thin winding road. The limo eventually gets stuck on a sharp bend, and the driver is in a pickle. Bride and groom both have a turn at the wheel to try and fix the situation. It is genuinely funny, and great acting. When they arrive at the wedding reception which is being held at a large castle-type hotel, the problems continue. Justine does things the average bride wouldn’t. You learn more about her character as the day continues, you discover Justine has depression. Von Trier must be applauded, the portrayal of depression is a very sensitive account and Dunst gives such a breathtaking heartfelt performance. The wedding reception scenes are brilliantly choreographed, and the people who make the scenes are Justine’s eccentric family members.
The second part focuses on Claire (sister of Justine). The film tracks Claire who lives a normal life, she goes about her daily tasks of looking after Justine and her family. She becomes fascinated with a planet called Melancholia which is set to orbit very close to Earth. She has a fear that the planet’s flight path is bound for earth. Her scientist husband reassures her everything is okay. But will it be okay? The film’s tagline is, “Enjoy it while lasts” and it is being hyped as a “beautiful film about the end of the world”. So we all know what’s going happen.

This film posits a small character based story with a big catastrophic event. I much preferred the wedding scenes following Justine, it was so intricate and tender. The film offers such an insightful view of what depression is like and how it affects people. As the film progresses, the issue of an oncoming planet begins to dictate the story. This for me, struggles as the protagonist of the story. Shots of people looking up to the sky are not very cinematically gripping. The sombre and eerie feel to the film almost becomes suffocating towards the end. The end by the way, is absolutely epic.

I’m caught in two minds when thinking of how to conclude. The film does become a difficult watch in the latter stages, but I think it is meant to be a struggle. So is it a good film? It isn’t something I would watch again in a hurry, but the artistic cinematography and tackling of the issue ‘depression’ is so well done. Some great performances too. Both Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg are seriously good. I couldn’t tell who was the lead and who was the support. Giving it a rating was hard, Von Trier continues to divide opinion.

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