Monday, May 7, 2012


Some months ago, I heard a review on NPR for a then newly released movie entitled Melancholia by director Lars Von Trier (I must admit to never having heard of him until this movie, but from what I now know his films are generally dark and disturbing... anyway...).  Overall, the reviewer liked the movie, but I've also heard that it is so heavy, and perhaps slow, that many people don't finish it.  

DH & I had both heard the NPR review and were intrigued.  About a week ago, I found it on Netflix, and this weekend we watched it.  It is certainly not an Orthodox film.  Rather it is on the surface nihilistic, but I found it to be incredibly beautiful.  Here I'll have to admit that most movies I watch are "light watching" and I would never call them art.  This one is not in that category.  The scenery, cinematography, and music are all so beautiful, so powerful that when put together I can only call it an artistic masterpiece.  

The story follows two sisters (Part I: Justine played by Kirsten Dunst, Part II: Claire played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) in the days before the possible collision of the planet Melancholia with Earth.  Justine's severe depression (melancholia) and Claire's perfectionist personality create an abundance of dramatic tension in Part I as we trudge through Justine's awkward wedding reception.  However, I found that tension to be alleviated by several moments of comic relief (I won't swear those moments were intentional -- I may just have an odd sense of humor or be familiar enough with Justine's emotional state to find them funny).  As Part II progresses, the roles of the sisters reverse Claire who has taken care of Justine and arranged things begins to panic at the thought of the world ending.  Justine, on the other hand, finds a sense of calm and peace in the knowledge that the world will end.  While Claire hopes for disaster to be averted, Justine finds relief in its certainty. 

The story line offers an honest look at human nature.  As tables turn the facades we put on for the world are lifted, and we are shown our weaknesses, but also the strength we can find despite that weakness.  The final scene of destruction is poignant in the show of real love between Justine and Claire and towards Claire's young son.  This love gives Claire and her son strength in their fear.  It is for this that I would disagree with critics who call the film nihilistic.  Justine (and the director) may think the world is meaningless, evil, and deserves to be destroyed, but in the end we can find meaning in relationships and love.

I definitely recommend watching this film.  It is artistically amazing, and whether you end up liking it or not, it will leave you with plenty of food for reflection.  Having said that, there are at least two scenes (of nudity and sex) that would almost certainly offend some people, but after watching the entire film, I found them easy to overlook.

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