Melancholia (2011) – directed by Lars Von Trier

Melancholia (2011) – directed by Lars Von Trier

Last year I saw a Lars von Trier film for the first time when I was introduced to Dogville (2003). I was aprehensive before watching the film. I had heard an interview with the controversial director about his recently released film Antichrist (2009) and he came across as somewhat unhinged. So when I sat down to watch Dogville I was not sure what to expect. Suffice to say that I was very impressed with the film and it had me wanting for more. So, I was chomping at the bit when I heard of Melancholia’s release, my expectations were high.

It delivered.

Anyone hoping to see a typical science fiction disaster film will be disappointed. Melancholia is an exploration into depression, focussing on two sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). The film is entirely set within a luxurious estate where wedding guests are present for Justine’s wedding reception. The chief protagonists, Justine and Claire, react in opposite ways to the discovery of Melancholia, a blue planet that has been hiding behind the sun and is on a collision course with Earth. The narrative is broken into two parts. The first part concerns Justine, who slips deeper into a severe and disabling depression. Upon discovery of Earths impending doom Justine undergoes a transformation becoming more self assured, and much to Claire’s frustration, bathes serenely in the fate of humanity. Part two focuses on Claire, and the paranoia she experiences at the approach of Melancholia. The planet comes and goes like a cancerous growth due to its complicated mathematical trajectory. The closer it comes the more panicked Claire gets, and conversely the more euphoric she becomes when she discovers that the planet is receding.

So much can be read from Melancholia. It operates as a metaphor for a mind that is tackling the melancholic notion of depression and is littered with characters that represent the various pulls and pushes of the subconscious. There is the mother figure, the father figure, the rational (Kiefer Sutherland’s scientific rantings on why Melancholia won’t hit earth), the sensor (the wedding planner’s refusal to look at Justine), and the unobtrusive background orderliness of the butler. But in the end Melancholia’s main struggle is played out between it’s two main players that represent desire for rationality (Claire) and its polar opposite (Justine).

Von Trier deleiveres in spades with Melancholia. It is a beautiful film that is deep and rich. It lingered in my mind long after the curtains closed and it has created an uncomfortable curiosity in me to see his next film. I say “uncomfortable” because his next project is about nymphomania.

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