Melancholia

Let’s face facts: Either the pills are working or I’ve totally given up, for I watched a Lars Von Trier film. It’s not my first, but the first in a long time. Last night I saw Melancholia, and yes, I am aware that it’s the second film of the Depression Trilogy. I don’t know if I will ever be mentally stable enough to ever watch Antichrist. But… It is part of the Criterion Collection. Maybe if up my dosage.

Melancholia starts with an eight and a half minute prologue. Or is it an overture? It’s a series of slow-motion shots set to Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. Yeah, I read the credits. Some people may skip this section when they watch the film for a second or third time, but it really is effective in setting the tone of the movie. I would have liked to have seen it in a theatre on the big screen, but I am not sure which is worse: watching a Trier film with a bunch of other people who may or may not know what they are in for, or sitting at home all alone with animal crackers, strawberry yogurt covered pretzels, Coke Zero, and my movie blanket.

Part One: Justine

Played by Kirsten Dunst, Justine has just married Michael, (Alexander Skarsgard) who seems like a nice enough guy, but has gotten in way over his head. Justine is a very depressed person, and everyone keeps telling her that this should be the happiest day of her life, but that only seems to exacerbate matters.

We don’t get to see the actual wedding, so I don’t know how it went, but the reception goes right off the rails. Justine’s sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) keeps trying to stay on schedule, but Justine can’t keep it together for very long. It makes me wonder why Michael would want to marry her. Does he believe that a wedding is a miracle cure? And what about Justine’s family? Did they ever send her to a therapist or try to get her on some kind of medication?

Speaking of family, Justine and Claire’s parents are a hoot. Dexter (John Hurt) is a guy who is fun to be around, especially if your name is Betty, but he cannot stand his ex-wife, Gaby, (Charlotte Rampling) who has a black belt in buzzkill.

A wedding reception gone wrong feels like something we’ve seen before, but we haven’t seen it until its given the Lars Von Trier treatment, which sounds like something one would receive in a clinic in Copenhagen. If for no other reason, it’s worth it for Udo Keir’s perfomance as the exasperated wedding planner. That man is a World Class Scene Stealer. Remember him in Armageddon?

Part Two: Claire

Of the two parts, I like this one most, because this is where everything happens. At this point, I should mention that Melancholia is not only the state Justine is in, but is also the name of a rogue planet that may or may not be headed on a collision course with Earth.

But seriously, who names a planet Melancholia? That’s some old school Doctor Who planet naming right there.

Justine is now living with her sister and brother-in-law, John (Kiefer Sutherland). John is some kind of a science boffin, but it’s never explained what does or who he works for. All we know is he’s mega-rich, and owns a Downton Abbey-like castle, complete with a stable, and eighteen hole golf course. Personally, I’d rather have a cricket ground.

Melancholia is a gorgeous film, masterfully shot by Manuel Alberto Claro. It’s all handheld, so a word of warning to anyone who is sensitive to such things. It may seem odd that a CGI heavy film would be shot in this manner, but with today’s technology, everything works seamlessly. And despite my minor criticisms, so does the film.

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