Friday, September 30, 2011

Box Office Review - Melancholia

What would you do if the world was going to end? Don’t imagine a world overrun with zombies, or a plague, or any other type of disaster that allows for a few survivors. Imagine a situation that was inescapable no matter where you went or what you did. This is the situation that the characters face in Lars Von Trier′s newest film Melancholia. This however is not what the film is about.

We join the story of Justine and her sister Claire on Justine′s wedding day. Arriving for her wedding reception at a gorgeous home owned by Claire and her husband we follow Justine as she mingles with her family, and the other guests. It becomes obvious that things are not okay with Justine and gathering by the way her family treats her, she hasn’t been okay for a long time. Even on what is to be the happiest day of her life, Justine is showing signs of deep seeded and debilitating depression. Over the course of the night she makes a series of self destructive choices that lead to her losing her job, and her new husband. Cut to a few months later and Justine returns to the house to live with her sister in an almost comatose state. This only adds to Claire and her families concerns as the threat of new planet called Melancholia crashing into earth looms over them.

Director Lars Von Trier uses the planet Melancholia as an allegory for depression. This is done in a not so subtle way as the planets name suggests. Hidden behind the sun until its orbit brings it near Earth, some like Claire′s husband John do not believe that it poses a threat, while others like Claire herself are consumed with fear by the possibility that the planet may collide with earth. This is similar to the way that both characters treat Justine. John is basically annoyed by the way that she acts and in a few scenes is rather curt with her about it. Claire on the other hand sees her sister’s illness as just that, a sickness that needs cared for. Her concern for Justine is what makes her take in her troubled sister when everyone else has given up on her.

Since Von Trier is so up front about what his film is about,the film comes off as rather simplistic. He relies mostly on the assembled actors to create believable characters that will sell the story. Kirsten Dunst is given the most difficult role in the film as the deeply disturbed Justine. She does a fantastic job of showing someone suffering from depression trying to put on a pleasant facade for those around her. Her body language and facial expressions portray someone who has been struggling for a long time. Her transformation in the film from someone trying, to someone who has given up, and then to someone who is calm in the face of great adversity is very convincing. While Dunst is the lead for the first half of the film, she takes a back role for the second part is suitably named Claire. Playing Claire in the film is Charlotte Gainsbourg who has the responsibility of being the character who has to try to hold everything together. This is rather difficult when the world could possibly end. Gainsbourg′s character shows beginning signs of depression as she focuses and worries about the new planet in the sky. Gainsbourg makes easy work of the character, making Claire believable and complex in an effortless way.

The majority of this drama/end of the world film is shot in a realistic way. Not as realistic as the Lars Von Trier produced Festen, but it is filmed in a way that makes the audience feel as if they are right there with the characters. The opening ten minutes however are filmed in ultra slow motion and framed as though each shot is a work of art. This opening serves as a sort of overture and is beautifully constructed. Personally I would like to see overtures come back into popularity. Especially for a film like Melancholia, that basically requires the full commitment of the viewer, it is nice to have a few moments at the beginning that absorbs the viewer and makes them forget about everything except the film. The incredible few scenes at the beginning of the did make me dislike the ending a bit. Not that I was disappointed in what happened, I was just hoping for something more visually breathtaking.

Melancholia is a simple film that accurately depicts depression and how it affects the sufferer and those around him or her. The story just happens to take place during the end of the world. The film isn’t an easy watch, and the pacing will make it unwatchable for some, but I assure you it is a rewarding viewing.

A Gold Banana

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