Monday, November 14, 2011

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)
Melancholia (2011)


Genre: Sci-Fi • Drama
Director: Lars von Trier
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland
Language: English
Duration: 130 min.
Rating: 8.9  

Summary:
Justine and Michael are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party held at the exclusive home of her sister and brother-in-law.  Meanwhile, the planet, Melancholia, is headed on a deadly collision course towards Earth...



Melancholia is a film written and directed by Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier.  It premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where Kirsten Dunst received the award for Best Actress. 

Lars von Trier's latest is a work that contains staggering beauty and at times unrelenting frustration.  Starting with a now familiar slow motion opening sequence that serves as a twisted highlight reel prologue for the movie to come, comprised of astonishing images and bombastic sound that would just as appropriately fit an apocalyptic designer perfume ad campaign for The Tree of Death™.  The film continues from there in two parts, each of them centered on one of two sisters, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and their vastly different outlooks and dispositions on life, as the end of the world approaches.

As Justine, Kirsten Dunst is the embodiment of depression, and her steady self destructive march in the first half of the film is presented in a troubling yet entirely captivating manner.  Taking place on her wedding night, things start off happily and lighthearted, but we soon discover that it's all an act.  Dunst fully channels a wide range of external emotions for Justine's interactions with her husband, friends, and family.  However they all betray her true feelings, inside she is eclipsed by a crushing feeling of dread, and with this she delivers one of the most convincing and devastating depictions of depression ever rendered on screen.

Melancholia (2011)

The second half switches the focus to Claire, and Charlotte Gainsbourg brings an equally solid if not quite as emotionally riveting turn, as she tries impossibly to lift her sister from depression, while also dealing with her own family and the growing prospect of impending doom.  It's interesting to see that as the planet Melancholia moves closer, the two sisters begin to trade places, Justine opens up ready to embrace the end while Claire clams up from terrible fear, it's also where the strongest exchanges of dialog in the film take place between the two of them.  In this second part, the film also switches from a large lively ensemble to a much more quiet and intimate picture while maintaining the same magnificent setting, a monstrous secluded stone mansion where Claire and her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) live with their son Leo (Cameron Spurr).

This isn't exactly a perfect film though, it works masterfully as a disturbing metaphoric portrait of the misunderstood illness of depression, but sadly the story does not hold up well enough to justify the film's length.  The plodding segments are understandable when you consider Justine's state of mind, but ultimately only serve to drag out the narrative.  Also the otherwise intriguing sci-fi premise completely falls apart under any amount of logical scrutiny.  Not a fatal flaw in this case, but worth noting.

Despite its lack of scientific credibility, questionable pacing, and grim subject matter, the film's dazzling imagery, awards caliber acting, as well as several memorable appearances from the accomplished supporting cast, help keep us glued to the screen for its entirety.  Capped off with an ending where von Trier rewards us with a truly awe inspiring final sequence.  The best finish I've seen all year, and one that must be seen on a big screen with big sound.   

Bonjour Tristesse

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia (2011)

41 comments:

DEZMOND said...

it could be the first of Von Trier's films I accept to watch after I've sworn I won't see any of his films when he tortured animals in MANDERLAY and went crazy in ANTICHRIST.
DOGVILLE is still one of my top ten all time favourites!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

DOGVILLE is one of my favorites as well.  You really should consider giving this one a chance.

Chris said...

The poetic opening was stunning, the wedding scenes were involving, sadly the last hour or so didn't do much for me.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

From the little I've read of your reviews so far, I do think you will love this film too.  The vagueness is only in the trailer I think.  The film leaves nothing on the table.

AIDY said...

My type film in every-way. Love the imagery. Love the film's premise. I adore the sadness and depressive aspects of the film. I cannot wait for my review copy to come in. Hopefully I will get this on Blu-ray. I was worried if Von Trier left much vagueness in this story as he had in Antichrist? Maybe it's just me. But Melancholia, I must see.

FilmMasterT said...

terrific review! I cant wait to see this!

Andina said...

I agree with an inspiring ending. The movie's not very entertaining, but the ending had me thinking for days. Well put, good observation :)

Virgnie's Cinema said...

I'm watching it tomorrow and I am SO excited!!
















Virginie

Max Covill said...

I've put off watching this because I don't want to feel miserable afterwards. Is there any chance that I won't? 

Guy Movie BLogger said...

Von Trier might be an idiot when it comes to press conferences, but there's no denying he has a knack for great imagery.

Stevee said...

I simply loved this film. Yes, it did get a bit boring in some parts, but both the opening sequence and the ending make up for that. It really has to be experienced on the big screen, because that ending is just epic. Kirsten Dunst was brilliant, too.

If it ever makes it to cinemas here, I'll be giving it another watch. 

G said...

Going to have to check this out 

Bonjour Tristesse said...

It's interesting because both LVT and Dunst have also gone through bouts of depression, so I think that's why the portrayal is so accurate.  I also think that the viewer's impression of this film depends on whether or not they have gone through depression or are at least aware of the crippling effects of it.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I'm glad you agree.  This is definitely the most accessible work from LVT.  Gonna have a look at your top ten list now.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck were unavailable...

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Big scores, because this one really struck a personal chord with me.  I hope you get the chance to see it soon.

Hoi-Ming Ng said...

I didn't expect such acting chops from Dunst.

Dan O'Neill said...

Dunst was very good in this role but her character was just a little
mopey for my liking. However, von Trier keeps his artistic vision
in-tact and although there are moments of boredom, it still all comes
together so well in the last 40 minutes. Great review. Check out my
review when you get the chance.

NeverTooEarlyMP said...

I keep losing track of these films that have their premieres and then don't show up for months, but it sounds like this is one I should definitely track down!

Dave Louden said...

Looking forward to watching it after your review.  It was one that's been on my radar for a while now and has been put off for long enough.

Steven Flores said...

Oh!  Bravo.  This is definitely one of my favorite films this year and von Trier always deliver.  Yet, I was more surprised by Kirsten Dunst's performance which was truly deserving of the Best Actress prize.  She nailed that part and really gave me something that I didn't expect as I've also experienced depression.  I totally anticipate what von Trier will set out to do next.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I can understand, the last half is slower and definitely harder to relate to unless you've experienced that state of mind.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I know what you mean.  I have a list and I still forget about some of them.  I definitely recommend watching this one.  There's some awards potential for at least Dunst, and in my opinion Gainsbourg as well.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thanks FilmMasterT!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thanks Andina! 

Bonjour Tristesse said...

So, what did you think?

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Actually I found it strangely uplifting at the end.

Jason said...

Lars von Trier won me over with this film after many years of ignoring him. It's gorgeous and full of complicated interesting characters. Kirsten Dunst was incredible in it as well. I loved the ending to this film and glad I saw it in a cinema - it has to be experienced on THE BIG SCREEN!

My review for it was glowing  but it didn't make it into my top ten of the year. It has been a very good year for film.Sorry Lars. His next project sounds absolutely ghastly as well.

d_4 said...

Big screen, big sound, I'll believe you. I won't just wait for this one to go by.

The Reel Foto said...

trippy...

The Angry Lurker said...

Is there no side issues with the impending end of earth?

FrontRoomCinema said...

BIG scores BT, big scores!!

I am very much looking forward to seeing this one, hopefully it will ignite a flame for von Trier that everyone else has!!

Mette said...

Didn't read the review, I'm afraid of spoilers about this film, because I have high expectations for it... Going to see it next week.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I watched that press conference live, and thought it was hilarious.  I never thought it would turn into that big of a deal. 

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yep that ending is just amazing.  Can't wait to get the bluray to see it again.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

She's impressed me a couple times before, in Eternal Sunshine and The Virgin Suicides, but this is a real step forward for her.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Great, I'd love to hear what you think of it.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Nice review. I found the entire film to be brilliant--even if the sci fi angle didn't add up for you, which I took as a bold, glaringly apparent and dramatically compressed metaphor for the current environmental crisis. Even if the suggestion of mental illness as an indicator of a severe ethical imbalance wasn't entirely obvious, the fact that every one of these characters is evil at their core, almost beyond redemption (Justine being the only--barely--candidate), the level of complexity to each, the style in which the characters revealed themselves was unlike any film I've seen. Completely engrossing throughout. Every new scene forced me to readjust, to take in how a world almost entirely devoid of compassion functions (or not). I had to keep asking myself if people like that actually exist. Floored on every level. A rare genius of a film.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Even if you repeat yourself a lot Cyrus, it seems as if though (perhaps not entirely) you are clearly very very passionate about this film. Write me a tag line sometime, Big Boy?

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Stella, your comment made me blush. Perhaps I should reread and reread before posting! Certainly not going to land me a copy writing job, never mind head art director, anytime in the near future. I'm just a lonely cinettante interminably stuck at an airport playing corny jazz renditions of Xmas songs. A silent night indeed.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Smooth jazz . . . Le sigh

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