Due to the stylized similarities within the story and the ethic and pragmatic visual poem, Melancholia feels like The Tree of Life's little brother. That's just a feeling though and nothing accurate as you cannot really put these two movies in the same bowl. Melancholia is a frivolled appearance in the art of filmmaking. It's an interesting concept that deals with smooth nuances of flamboyant storytelling and magical colors. An ambiance between, music, soul and film. While The Tree of Life feels cold, Melancholia feels more warm and soulful. It's approach is more to the heart than to the mind, it's thoughtful but sensitive, peaceful and silent.
Movie starts with a slow incognito beginning. It prepares us emotionally and intellectually for the journey ahead. The earth. The slow melting of it's core. The impact of another planet. The joy of caring a burden. The tone of the film is an obvious state of melancholia. A dreamy-like and almost insane quality that waits to unveil the final set of Earth's final confrontation with life and it's apocalypse. Broken in two parts, the movie deals with the parallel and crossed lives of two sisters.
The first part is called "Justine" and is obviously about Justine (Kirsten Dunst). Justine is apparently a happy woman, facing the final requisite of her own wedding with Michael (Alexander Skarsgård): the family dinner, the cake cutting, the first night. She sees a bright red star. There's something strange about that moment and she feels that connection close to the heart. Her family is extremely rich and also very tough to handle. A family almost shattered by it's intellectual and complex vices like arrogance, thirst for power, grandeur and selfishness. She becomes more and more nervous, impatient, scared, frustrated and in the end, totally depressed. At least that's how you feel her. Then she carries herself into a place of lust, greed and total waste. It's like she sees life as a total waste of precious time and beauty. A portrayal of a woman. A woman which men won't ever understand. The things that she do, the choices she makes, the things that she's insecure of and the things that she caries confidence for. Questions will be asked but few answers will be given. At the end of her part, we'll find a Justine that is in search of something or that already found a tranquility in something so beautiful but sad that it will hit her like a disease. She'll part ways with her newly husband in a manor that we cannot hold to question it.
The second part is called "Claire" and is obviously about Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Claire is an emotional woman, always ready to help her sister, devoted to her husband and son. A true mother. She has incredible patience and virtue. May I add that the contrast and color palette varies from shiny gold and melancholic green to a stingily gray and rusty brown. An effect of color almost -I dare to say- magical. Provides serious information about the spiritual quality of our characters. However, in the few next days after the wedding, we process new ideas that Justine has an actual illness, that she lost all clarity and that in a matter of days, a planet called "Melancholia" will pass the Earth without hitting it. Claire tries to maintain calm and perseverance in her work as a mother and wife. She tries to keep stability in the family but is terrified of one idea: the loss of life. She seems worm but sometimes she acts colder than anyone. She wants to find her peace in her own way because that's what would make her happy but forgets about the tragic around the others. She's good-intended but not too wise. Her husband on the other hand, John (Kiefer Sutherland), is a meticulous and tough man. He's a man of science. He's the head of the family so he acts like one. He maintains the trust inside the family and keeps Claire comfortable with the thought that nothing apocalyptic will happen.
This is where we meet Justine's strange and mysterious connection with this cosmical event that takes place. She finds herself close to the idea of an end, she recognizes it, acknowledges it and fins a sort of liberation into it. She accepts it as the way so she's reserved in feeling anything, anymore. When the expected thing happens, when the final hours of "joy" are a fact, we find out that these characters are the opposite of what they seem to be. The arrogant becomes the weak, the cold becomes warm, the confident becomes terrified, the man of the family becomes the coward. The ending of all things is spectacular by all means, emotional and profound not only in it's literary essence but also visually.
Kirsten Dunst turned this role into the best performance of her career. A disturbing, honest and mysterious work of acting. A methodical pursuit of her gorgeously troubled character. She needs to be nominated for a Best Actress in Leading Role by the Academy voters this season but let's hope her buzz won't get lost by then. The other actors did their job perfectly. Charlotte Gainsbourg was natural and impressive, Stellan Skarsgård, John Hurt, Alexander Skarsgård, Kiefer Sutherland or Charlotte Rampling also giving memorable small appearances.
The quality of this eccentric film is given also by it's technical features. The contrast, the color palette, the changes of nuances, the impeccable cosmic images, the great usage of steady-cam and handy-cam, the heavenly Wagner, all contribute to Lars von Trier's almost masterpiece.
In few words, challenging in it's ideas and sometimes length, very complex and dramatic, Melancholia serves as a poetic justice on Earth's end of days. It's visceral atmosphere, incredible photography, mysterious look, divine music and perfect acting take this film into another level. Lars von Trier succeeds to use his own frustration and pessimistic art behavior in order to create a striking piece of art.
**** out of **** "Melancholia" begins with a stunning montage of beautiful images, all somehow connected. They are meant to act as a sort of moving scrapbook for the end of the world; at the end of it all, we see a planet collide with our own, incinerating everything on it, perhaps even the water. Before that, we get extreme slow motion imagery such as a woman clutching her infant child as she walks across what looks like a golf course, another woman observing as a mysterious … more
When 'Melancholia' directed by the always controversial, Lars Von Tier, opens...there is a montage of impressionistic stills set to Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde... Dead birds slowly rain down from the sky, while Kirsten Dunst, dressed in a long, flowing white wedding gown, wearing a dazed expression on her face, runs through a lush, dark forest...A horse silently falls to the ground as the opera reaches a crescendo...Then we cut … more
Star Rating: If Melancholia is indeed a science fiction film, as Wikipedia tells us it is, it’s one that only Lars von Trier could have made. Its depiction of a rogue planet on a collision course with Earth is joined at the hip with the story of two sisters, one of whom is deeply depressed. Trier, widely known within film circles for his bouts of severe depression, claims the idea came to him during one of his therapy sessions, in which he was told that, … more
MELANCHOLIA Written and Directed by Lars von Trier Starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Keifer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgard Justine: The Earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it. Nobody will miss it. Leave it to one of the world’s most infamously melancholic directors, Lars von Trier, to open a film with Earth as we know it coming to an abrupt demise. Dead birds drop from the sky, roots come out from the ground and people sink into the dirt beneath … more