Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves) is one of the more consistently creative directors today. You will never be bored watching one of his films. Whether it is because you are emotionally or visually engaged, enraged, or challenged, von Trier is a master filmmaker. His latest film is just as “difficult” as the previous ones. Difficult in the sense that it is dark, painful and sad. There is some humour, but even those moments are tough. At the end of it all there will be as many people who want him burned at the stake as those pleading for sainthood for the man. A divisive film which will earn no grey area responses meaning you will either hate it or love it.
Like a car accident you will not be able to turn away from Melancholia. Reason number one is the cinematography by Manuel Albert Claro as it is wondrous. The naturalism that is evoked from the photography adds an incredible depth to the whole thing. It allows the viewer to feel like a fly on the wall. Plus the special effects used in the disaster part will have you oohing and ahhing.
Showing he has mastered many aspects of filmmaking, von Trier then shifts from a disaster film to a melodrama. Combining the two and making it work is a tricky thing and he walks the tightrope skillfully. A rather esoteric and philosophical film, every person who sees it will draw something different from it. The viewer is left to their own devices with little explanation supplied or dumbing down done. At its root it is about love, human relationships and behviours. But even that is painting in rather broad strokes what the film is about. The relationship between sisters Justine and Claire is closely looked at. Von Trier uses the impending doom to examine how a family will react to the stress.
Melancholia is a disaster film with two impending disasters. One being of a relationship or two and the other being the potential destruction of the very planet we humans live on. A wondrous first eight minutes of the film (birds falling dead from the sky, a sperm entering an egg, etc) ends with the symbolic end of life and then the story of the wedding begins. The next part of the story last about an hour. The first disaster is that of a wedding ceremony/reception. A bride (Kirsten Dunst – Spider-Man, Mona Lisa Smile) and her groom (Alexander Skarsgard – from television’s True Blood) are late due to limo problems for their own ceremony. The ceremony is happening at a castle where waits the sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg – 21 Grams, I’m Not There) of the bride and her brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland – from television’s 24), who is the owner of the mansion with the windiest driveway I’ve ever seen. Everything goes wrong and it is just too much for the already emotionally and mentally brittle bride, so she falls into a stupor of depression. Justine’s catatonic depression lasts until she snaps out of it to help her sister through the threat of a planet called Melancholia that is hurtling towards Earth.
The tension is almost unbearable at times. With the ending being a killer. Certain scenes made me so uncomfortable they were hard to watch. Despite all this I was completely focused on what was happening on the screen. Though it is all tense and dark at the end you will feel invigorated. Typical Lars von Trier in that it keeps you interested, thinking, feeling, and involved.