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Melancholia [Celluloid Hero]

 

Melancholia  (2011)

Director Lars von Trier’s work has garnered him a lot of controversy from a small sample size. This is the first movie of his that I have seen, but based on what I’ve read, he’s pretty crazy. He just does what he wants, doesn’t seem to care about negative criticism, and puts his own vision on the screen. After seeing “Melancholia”, I’m interested to see more of his work, but it’s more out of curiousity than enjoyment.

The movie has two distinct halves; the first focuses on the wedding of Justine & Michael (Kirsten Dunst and Alexander Skarsgård). Things start off okay, but it quickly becomes evident that this is not going to be a storybook wedding. The couple are two hours late, the families give inappropriate toasts, feelings are hurt, people walk out, and others try desparately to keep everything together. Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law John (Keifer Sutherland) were the hosts of the wedding, paying for everything including the magnificent country club / castle / hotel that it takes place in. Dunst’s erratic behavoir puts a strain on her sister and brother-in-law.

The entire first half of the movie focuses just on the wedding, starting during the afternoon and lasting until the next morning. Without revealing a spoiler, Justine does something that ruins the wedding and sends her into a deep depression. A few months pass since the wedding, and Justine is now living with Claire & John and their son. The second half is where things get sort of crazy.

Melancholia is actually the name of a planet, one that had been hiding behind the sun, invisible to scientists on Earth. It has been speeding towards our planet, and there is debate about it’s path of orbit. Astronomers are telling the world that everything is fine, the orbit will pass by Earth in a beautiful once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. There are conspiracy theories, though, that claim this is all a smoke-screen to keep people from the truth, that Melancholia is on a direct collision course with Earth. This all sounds absurd, but the movie actually does a great job at just presenting this as fact. The suspension of disbelief is effective, I just totally accepted that in this world, something as large as a planet was able to go undetected through our solar system.

There is an obvious metaphor of someone’s world crashing down on them in a figurative and literal sense. The story wasn’t bad, but the movie suffers from characters who are all just unlikeable. Michael is spineless, Justine is a bitchy headcase, Claire is a naggy wet blanket. None of the characters were appealing, and I could barely care to find out if they were all horribly crushed from above.

 

 

On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Melancholia” gets a 5 out of 10.

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