Melancholia is such a beautiful movie from the first moments on. It starts with a series of pictures accompanied by the music of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. The pictures look in many cases like taken from DeviantART. Others are either inspired by or show actual paintings. I spotted one by Breughel and the poster shows Kirsten Dunst as Ophelia which could have been inspired by Millais.
Kirsten Dunst’s character Justine is an Ophelia type woman in many regards. She is highly depressed. Smiling takes more energy than walking up a mountain. She has just gotten married to Michael (Alexander Skarsgård). They arrive two hours too late to their own wedding party which has been organized by Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gaisnbourg). It is taking place in the grand estate of Claire’s husband (Kiefer Sutherland). It’s one of those stiff wedding parties in which everything is strictly organized in order to try to overshadow that nobody knows anyone and nobody is interested in anyone. But the perfect surface cracks very soon. Justine and Claire’s mother (Charlotte Rampling) isn’t one for pretending and her brutal honesty destroys what little festive spirit there is. From that moment on Justine is in free fall and not even the dreams of a lovely future that her husband tries to share with her can mend the damage. The only person who would have been able to help her is her unavailable father, a childish drunk (John Hurt).
The first part of the movie, Justine’s part, shows how she struggles, fails and finally destroys what little is left intact at the end. A more accurate depiction of severe depression and of a dysfunctional family I’ve rarely seen.
The second part is dedicated to Justine’s sister and her fear that the earth is going to be hit by the planet Melancholia. The blue planet has started to loom over the earth during the wedding party and sheds an eerie light on the garden and the surrounding forest. While the hard-headed Claire, who dreads nothing more than extinction, starts to unravel slowly when the planet comes closer, depressed Justine, who ultimately thinks that humanity would deserve destruction, becomes the strong one.
I know this isn’t a movie for everyone but I absolutely loved it. I think it’s one of Lars von Trier‘s best. It works as a whole and as a series of amazing pictures and scenes and ends in a stunning finale. The cast is great as well. I already liked Kirsten Dunst a lot in The Virgin Suicides, another of my favourite movies, but here she is simply amazing. The other actors do a great job as well, especially Charlotte Gainsbourg. I thought it was also interesting to see Stellan Skarsgård together with his son Alexander in the same movie.
Some of the scenes will haunt me for a long time. I particularly liked all the scenes that show Justine on her own when she leaves the party to look for some quiet and peace or when hardly any one is left in the early morning and those who remain seem to be in a tired floating and melancholy after-the-party mood.
Melancholia is a contribution to Richard’s Foreign Film Festival and my World Cinema Series.