Friday, April 11, 2014

Indie Review: Melancholia

                                A 'Melancholic' Yet Beautiful Film About The End of the World

                     Most films that deal with the end of the world usually are high caliber pictures that involve zombies or plagues and whatnot. However, Melancholia is an apocalyptic film told from the point of view of directing auteur Lars Von Trier and even though there is hardly any action, it is still, quite ironically, beautiful to look at.

                   Melancholia is about two sisters: Justine and Claire (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg). Justine has just gotten married yet seems depressed and unfulfilled by her marriage, which flusters Claire and her husband who pooled in a lot of money into their wedding. As Justine goes on a downward spiral and her relationship with her sister becomes tested, a rogue planet known as "Melancholia" begins to make its way towards the Earth.

                   What I Liked About It:
                  First off, I absolutely loved the performances from the two leading ladies, especially Kristen Dunst as Justine. Unlike her previous performances, Dunst gives a performance that is more subtle and restrained and I more than happy she collected her fair share of accolades for her performance. Some of the scenes in the beginning where she puts on a face for the crowd at the wedding and immediately frowns when she walks away from the crowd are so realistic and believable. Many of us have probably been in a similar position where we make people believe we are happy but the smile is a mask for whatever pain we are hiding. Charlotte Gainsbourg is equally astonishing as Claire, the sister who is flustered yet tries to keep things grounded as she is stressed about her sister's depression and the planet hitting Earth. One thing that I thought was interesting was that I felt how the two planets were each a representation of the sisters. Melancholia is a symbol for Justine and her depression, and Earth is a symbol for Claire, as she is the sister that is more "full of life", so to speak. One scene that to me really showcases this symbolism is a scene where both sisters are outside and Claire is standing by the moon and Justine is standing right over Melancholia.
                  Another thing that I really liked was of course, the direction by Lars Von Trier and how he manages to weave in themes of depression. Von Trier apparently got the idea for this film when he was going through a depressive episode and learned how people with depression remain calm with stressful situations. Since Justine is the character hit with depression and is even based off of Von Trier, she does remain awfully calm about the end of the world since she is already cynical to begin with. In fact, the more depressed she gets, the closer the planet gets to Earth. One thing that I would like to point out is just how Lars Von Trier is able to successfully tackle different genres and offer his own take on each genre: Breaking the Waves is his idea of a love story, Antichrist is his take on the horror genre, Melancholia is his sci-fi film, and even Dogville is his take on a film that has the feel of a stage play.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:

                Overall, Melancholia is a beautifully directed apocalyptic film that features magnificent performances from both Dunst and Gainsbourg. If you are expecting a sci-fi film that involves aliens and whatnot or Will Smith coming in to save the day, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you like to study and analyze film, I would put this high on your watch list as this is a true artistic gem.

Rating: 5/5