MELANCHOLIA Movie Review
With a slew of end-of-the-world human apocalypse movies out there, the industry is being flooded with a subject most people will find both interesting and terrifying. Where most focus on the aftermath of destruction, Lars von Trier (Antichrist, Dancer in the Dark) takes a different route by showing us the calm before the storm.
MELANCHOLIA is the duel narrative of sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which takes place during and shortly after Justine’s wedding reception, but right before impending doom on planet Earth. Melancholia, a rogue planet, is on a collision course with planet Earth, which plays out much differently for all the primary characters in the film.
Claire’s husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) serves as not only the host of the lavish party, but a knowledgeable scientist who is increasingly intrigued by the solar phenomenon. He bridges the gap between the seemingly sane Claire and the seemingly insane Justine.
Throughout the film, it tries to test the psychological stereotypes, adequately pushing the bounds of human nature. In a subtle way, the strains of survival and destruction play out through various characters.
Lars von Trier surely has his own style, and those familiar with his work won’t be surprised with the choices he decides to make as a filmmaker. His unorthodox approach to the apocalypse is aimed at producing a grandiose and beautiful story. Overall, he succeeds in creating great bookends to the movie, making the beginning and end unusually beautiful.
However, most will find the middle beautifully boring, especially the first half of the film.
If you went into the film knowing nothing about the plot, the first half will seem very wacky. There is seemingly no plot direction (and barely any mention of the catastrophe just days away). Instead, the story aims at creating an unstable character, Justine. At the end, it does seem like it’s worth it, but that doesn’t make it seem relevant while you’re watching it.
When the second half picks up, the plot starts to move forward. This is, no doubt, the saving grace of the film. Although it takes a bit too long to pick up, it begins to salvage the story. This is where the psychological growth is most evident, which is undoubtedly the central core of the film.
All of this makes for a mixed reaction by film’s end. Even while writing this, I’ve gone back and forth on whether I thought the film was good. The jury is hung.
There are some high points, for sure. Besides the psychology, setting the film to the soaring score of Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde makes for a beautiful sound. Also, Kristen Dunst’s performance is arguably her best yet.
On the other side, the frustrating nature of the First Act is hard to get past. The Art House feel will appeal to some, but will discourage others.
So, it all comes down to preference. Those expecting an overt plot with clear intentions should be warned beforehand: this movie probably isn’t for you. However, those wanting to grapple with a genre-bending apocalypse film should be excited because: this movie might be for you.
Since I tend to enjoy films that make me think, I’ll probably chalk this movie up as a success. Overall, as a filmgoer, I’m happy I went to see it. However, I still am cautious to describe it as a great film, or even good for that matter. Instead, I’ll say that I appreciate it.
I realize this review will likely leave you on the fence on whether you should see it or not, but to be honest, I’m still on the fence on whether I liked it or not. So, maybe this is a fitting review.
Good luck, and let us know if you enjoyed the film or not.
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