Melancholia is a 2011 movie by Lars von Trier about a dysfunctional family facing what may be the end of the world. A rogue planet is passing through our solar system. Most scientists believe that it will slide harmlessly past Earth giving everyone a spectacular celestial show. However, there are doom predictors on the internet warning there will be a collision which will end all life.
This is not really a science fiction movie. Like the movie Another Earth, Melancholia is a psychological drama. Most “end of the world” movies have huge crowd scenes with thousands of fleeing, panicking people. Melancholia portrays a much more intimate and philosophical mood. No one is panicking or screaming. Instead they are introspective and depressed, trying to come to some sort of inner peace.
Kirsten Dunst is Justine, a young bride who has struggled with depression her whole life, and who is convinced the world will end. Charlotte Gainsbourg is her sister Claire, who has suffered with the burden of caring for Justine and wants nothing more than a perfect wedding for Justine. Claire is married to John (Kiefer Sutherland) who is a wealthy man with little patience for his crazy in-laws.
Melancholia is a spectacularly filmed movie with gorgeous scenes that are meant to show the beauty of life on Earth. There are shots of the two sisters riding horses through the woods in the early morning when the Sun is just lifting the fog. Kirsten Dunst has an artistically stunning nude scene lying down by a clear cold stream. These are all reminders that no matter what happens with the rogue planet, Life is short and should be cherished for the miracle it is.
Unfortunately, when Melancholia was presented at the Cannes Film Festival it was somewhat overshadowed by what was considered a pro-Hitler statement by the director Lars von Trier. In an interview, he mentioned that he had been brought up Jewish, only to discover later in life that his real father was German. Lars von Trier then went on to say that maybe that was why he had always been sympathetic towards Hitler.
This caused such an uproar that Lars von Trier and all his movies were banned from the Cannes Film Festival for a year. He explained later that he had been drunk and on drugs at the time of the interview and was in such a state that he thought he was making a witty joke when he spoke about Hitler. Lars von Trier is now clean and sober, but states that his film making was much more creative when he was on drugs.
Like many artists before him, the works of Lars von Trier are somehow greater than the man himself. Despite the personal failings of Lars von Trier, his movie Melancholia is beautiful and we highly recommend it.
- We rate Melancholia Five Stars *****
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