I liked Lars Von Trier’s last movie, Antichrist. I didn’t love it. It was certainly a distinct film, and quite an experience to watch, but I’m not the biggest fan of watching people disfigure themselves painfully (well, I loved 127 Hours, but that’s just different somehow). I haven’t seen any other LVT movies though and he’s got a history of getting a ton of nominations and awards for making great movies, so Melancholia was definitely somewhere near the top of the list of movies I wanted to see this year.
Here we have Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg playing unlikely sisters. Kirsten’s character, Justine, is clinically depressed. The first half of the film is a documentation of her efforts to defeat this depression and have a wonderful wedding. The second half concentrates on her sister Claire, who in the preceding act was trying to support Justine, but now faces a different sort of doom that Von Trier is basically using as an analogy for depression.
That might seem a bit boring. Sometimes it is. However, that analogy for depression is a god-damn planet on a collision course with Earth. Wrap that around your head. Von Trier’s excellent knack for visuals makes this conceit beautifully intense, never mind the gorgeous slo-mo prologue. The atmosphere leading up to the finale is very palpable. I’m not sure how I felt about Kiefer Sutherland’s role as Claire’s husband; his actions seemed a bit odd but did add to the sense of desperation.
I’ve been depressed in the past, but I’m fairly certain it was never this bad. I’m thankful that Von Trier was able to make this film to educate people about this illness while wrapping it all in such a beautiful package.