Sunday, March 24, 2013

Melancholia

Melancholia is a true cinematic achievement in every way. Great acting, original story, and some of the best cinematography I have ever seen. I am going to be brutally honest in this review and I am going to try my best and not sugar coat anything in the review. Lars Von Trier is kind of a madman, he has all of this creativity to put forth into his movies but he has this public persona that just destroys his image in the public eye. Its really never a good idea to say that Adolf Hitler was misunderstood, that statement is not going to get you a lot of positive press. He has created a fully realized alternate reality in this movie and he never truly gives the viewer a full explanation of the events that are transpiring and that is what keeps you going while watching the movie because that is part of the mystery with the movie. The movie concerns itself more with how impending doom effects people differently, not with how to prevent the event from actually happening. This is not Armageddon(The Michael Bay Production), this is the realistic take on the event if it were to actually occur.

Melancholia tells the story of Justine(Kirsten Dunst), who is a newly wed celebrating her wedding with her friends and family. Her sister, Claire(Charlotte Gainsbourg), and Claire's husband(Kiefer Sutherland) throw Justine a huge wedding reception at their mansion and we learn that Justine has some type of bipolar disorder. She seems content at the start of the movie but you see her as her mood disintegrates and she is left as a heap at a point in the movie. She has no handle on her emotions and can barely keep her actions in check as well. Her husband, Michael(Alexander Skarsgard), is a caring and nice individual and thinks that he can manage Justine's constant bouts of depression. Over the course of the night he comes to realize that he will never be able to enjoy his life with her because she will never be happy and affectionate. At the end of the first act we learn that a planet, Melancholia, had been "hiding" behind the sun and it is now moving in an orbit towards the Earth and may or may not be on a collision course with it. .

The second act deals with how each main character deals with this impending "fly by" or collision. Justine is convinced that Melancholia will hit the Earth and seems to be at complete ease with this idea. She feels that no one will miss the Earth because there is no other life in the universe. She also at points seems to welcome the event as a way to escape her emotional pain. John is in complete denial that Melancholia may hit the Earth. He is an expert astronomer and is certain that the planet will just pass by and it will just be a great show. Claire is the most fascinating to me personally because you see this woman who is desperate to hang on to life and will fight in anyway that she can to try and save the people that she loves. At points she comes off as irrational and hysterical but it is how a normal person would act when faced with the fact that another planet is going to obliterate Earth in several days maybe even hours. She is the balance between the characters of Justine and John. In the beginning she accepts John explanations and believes that they will be fine and then comes to realize that the Earth is doomed. The only difference between her and Justine is that she never gives up where Justine gave up a long time ago. The movie does not build suspense in terms of the impending destruction of Earth because we know that it is coming from the first four minutes of the movie, which are comprised of slow motion shots of the main characters inter-cut with shots of Melancholia getting closer and closer to the Earth and then finally hitting the Earth and destroying it.

Dunst gives a great performance in the movie and that is a great accomplishment because her character is unlikable in almost every way possible. She fights with almost every character in the movie, she is thankless, and she spits in the face of people trying to cope with the end of the world. She seems to only be able to get along with her nephew and he is the only one that she tries to protect. She cheats on her husband the night of their wedding and won't have a glass of wine with her sister right before the world ends because her sister wants to be with her family when Melancholia hits Earth. Justine is a mostly emotionally devoid character and has no fight in her whatsoever. She accepts death as a gift from Melancholia and even bathes naked in its light at night at one point in the film. She is a truly unhinged character but engaging none the less. Gainsbourg is mostly unknown to American audiences unless you have seen Antichrist, which is another Lars Von Trier movie. Antichrist was one the hardest movies for me to sit through. The amount of brutally graphic scenes in that movie was staggering and it not like seeing a gory horror movie, it was like seeing someone being actually killed and tortured in front of you. She is a revelation in this movie, you can see her as she goes through all of the different stages of grief. You see her in denial, acceptance and all of the stages in between. She has to try and hold herself together for the benefit of her son and her sister. Her sister is part of her problem because she spends so much time taking care of Justine and not enough time taking care of herself. Gainsbourg plays her to perfection and deserves some credit from the major award academies.

This was the most striking movie I have seen this year and was certainly one of the most unforgettable. From a pure film making and performance standpoint this is the best movie that I have seen to this point in the year. It is not the best overall movie, which still goes to Hanna in my opinion, because this is a movie that is hard to actually enjoy. Dunst and Gainsbourg kill it in this movie and I am really happy that this movie was not as graphic as Antichrist. If you want to see a movie that is great but happens to also be one of the most unenjoyable movies of all time due to the subject matter, then Antichrist is for you. Melancholia deserves a 10/10 due to the great performances and awe inspiring cinematography.