Just put a freakin’ smile on for Christ’s sakes.
Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Meanwhile, the planet, Melancholia, is heading towards Earth.
Lars von Trier is a very hard director to watch, especially if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into with him. Trier always seem very hell-bent on making just about every single hope and dream that anybody has ever had and basically throwing them away in our faces. The hope and dream in this film is the planet Earth.
This film is a very hard pill to swallow because it starts off so slow and depressing that it’s almost way too hard to even stick with it and just “enjoy” it. Trier isn’t all about having us be enjoyed, but he’s more about just letting us see the world from a certain persons point-of-view and letting us understand these people for what they are, not what we want them to be.
Basically what he is trying to say here is that everything you know and love, will all someday come to an end and die. It’s sort of like that song “Do You Realize??” from The Flaming Lips, but instead of a 4-minute alternative rock song, we have a 2-hour long film that stretches this idea pretty plainly and simply but the visuals is where it is taken to a whole ‘nother level.
Right from the beginning of the film, von Trier gives us these slow-mo shots of leaves falling, people yelling, horses collapsing, and the world we all know and love, basically disintegrating right before our own eyes. Trier is able to bring some real-life beauty to the whole “end of the world” idea but I almost forgot about that sometimes because of his visuals. The location that this film is shot on, is just about perfect for this film because it’s big, secluded, and can also get very glum and dark which is where this film really starts to hit its mood in. Trier has a vision that he’s not afraid to show off and that’s something I can easily say I have to give him props for.
Despite some beautiful visuals, von Trier sort of falls down when it comes to the actual “story” aspect of this film. Seeing that this is a very personal script for von Trier, since he did go through depression, it’s almost a no-brainer that he hits the nail on the head when it comes to making us feel the depressed and sad atmosphere that he probably felt for a long time but the whole story feels a like nothing is really happening and not really going anywhere. The film starts off focusing on Justine a lot with her depression and whatnot, but then the film focuses on her sister Claire, which is where I think the film kind of forgot about Justine’s problem and never fully resolved it. This felt messy to me and almost like von Trier was trying to branch-out both sissies but in a way it just didn’t work here.
Another problem I had with this film was the fact that Justine is not a very likable or enjoyable character to have your film centered around most of the time. She over-does the whole “I’m sad” act way too much throughout this film and is sort of just left there just hanging around, looking like she could be pushed over and not even care. Just having your character stand there and be depressed for some odd reason and never explain, doesn’t make your character compelling or dynamic, it just makes that person seem more and more like a distraction from all of the other good elements of the film. I don’t know why she didn’t do a lot of the things that she did, especially by the end, but to be honest, I couldn’t say I cared all that much.
Although her character isn’t very strong, Kirsten Dunst is still very good at selling this character and does a great job with what she is given. Most von Trier female leads have to endure it all, which is what Dunst kind of has to do as well, but it’s more about focusing on how well Dunst can put act on one emotion and make that all seem believable and well-rounded. I think she was able to do that here and provide a more dramatic center for this film. Also, for anybody wanting to see some of Maryjane Watson’s boobies, you’ll get to see them as she lies naked for a good 3 minutes. MY spidey sense is tingling! Ohhh owwwww!
The rest of the cast is pretty good too. Charlotte Gainsbourg starts off as a total bitch sister as Claire, but then soon starts to warm up as shit really starts to hit the fan, and this is something that Gainsbourg is able to pull-off real well; Keifer Sutherland is great as Claire’s husband, and provides that dirty charm that he always has; and Alexander Skarsgård is also nice to watch as Justine’s hubby who basically is always push to the side. My man should have known what he was getting himself into.
Even though the film really didn’t do much for me in the beginning, it picked up a lot by the end when everything really starts to get chaotic and I think this was what won me over. The way these people act seems so real and so genuine that if I was put in this situation, I think I would do the same exact thing. I’m not saying that all humans think like me but when it comes to the end of all humanity, I think that there is just a time when you have to act and almost give up. I didn’t feel cheated by the ending and I think it was the perfect way to end a film that really wanted to build-up to its last shot, which is something it does masterfully.
Consensus: The narrative may be a bit off, and things sure as hell don’t really pick-up for the longest time, but Melancholia is a show-case of Kirsten Dunst’s acting skills as a female lead, and von Trier’s brilliant ways of creating beautiful visuals and having them add another layer to the emotion’s of his films.