44 Films: Film 12 of 44: "Melancholia" (2011)
Film 12 of 44:
Written and Directed by Lars Von Trier.
Disasters have a tendency of introducing us to much needed clarity. The mundane and ephemeral stuff falls by the way side in favour of a more urgent awareness of who we are and why we're here, and the simultaneous futility of those very thoughts. Or we could curl up in a ball and retreat to an internal bunker where we pretend that everything we know outside is not being destabilised. The point is, we don't know how we'd react until the calamity happens, whether it's as typical as a fight with your boss, or as profound as the world coming to an end. Melancholia imagines scenarios of both extremes, and lets us in on what they may do to the witnesses and participants.
Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is getting married, but I'll be damned if it isn't the most uncomfortable ceremony ever. She walks out mid-ceremony to take absent-minded walks in the lavish golf course (18-holes, we're reminded incessantly), her parents go at each other in verbally brutal speeches, while her long-suffering sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) simply tries to keep the events (and herself) together. This forms just part of the story on the ground, while a colossal rogue planet, the titular Melancholia, hurtles towards Earth to make what we all hope is a simple fly-by.
Melancholia a beautiful, electrifying film. It's a powerful exploration on the human psyche in times of simple joy and utter terror; like when Justine finds more refuge in a bathtub than in her new husband, or when the characters' distresses are interrupted by Melancholia's wondrous blue glow. Von Trier is brave enough to summarise the entire story in the opening minutes, through gorgeously shot motifs shot in ultra slow-mo; then following up with a more unsteady, unpredictable camera. It breaks so many rules, but it works brilliantly.
Honestly, being privy to Von Trier's episodes of public lunacy, I was afraid of venturing into this, but then I found myself identifying with it in unexpectedly visceral ways. Perhaps, because its source material is just as personal. Von Trier made this as part of an unofficially titled 'Depression Trilogy', (the other films being Antichrist and Nymphomaniac Volumes I and II) which was his way of dealing with his own depression. He throws himself into this redeeming work with abandon, exploring the darkness so decidedly, that he can't help finding light.
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