So apparently it’s the end of the world in a year or something. To prepare us for the inevitable, I appoint 2011’s “Melancholia” as mandatory viewing.
When it premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the film made a splash for all the wrong reasons (see: director Lars von Trier’s Nazi rant) and has since failed to muster the accolades it deserves.
An artistic disaster film, “Melancholia” is undoubtedly the most sophisticated and beautiful film of its kind. Leave “Independence Day” on the shelf — the back shelf. In fact, save it for when you need things to burn once society as we know it has collapsed and the world is inexplicably cold, even during the daytime.
The story, told in two segments, details the lives of two sisters — Claire and Justine — faced with certain eradication as another planet hurtles towards Earth. The already turbulent relationship between the sisters becomes further strained with the arrival of the new planet, as both of them react very differently to the impending collision. For Claire, the older of the two, Justine’s indifference is as dire a threat as the renegade planet itself.
Breathing life into the two sisters are the versatile Kirsten Dunst (“The Virgin Suicides”) and the criminally underrated Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Dunst has received widespread acclaim for this performance, and rightfully so. Her brave portrayal of the mentally damaged Justine is her most daring work to-date. Gainsbourg, while given much less to do than in her last collaboration with Trier (2009’s brutal “Antichrist”), delivers a remarkably understated performance. Kiefer Sutherland (“24”) and Alexander Skarsgård (“True Blood”), whose television counterparts are well versed in upholding order and saving the world, also appear in supporting roles.
Technically speaking, “Melancholia” is unsurpassable. While slow and dramatic, the cinematography and visual effects are nothing short of stunning, and the haunting score provides an extra layer of intensity to the proceedings.
A scene toward the end of the film, in which an uncharacteristically-compassionate Justine tries to comfort Claire’s young son, is one of the most moving images depicted in recent memory.
The film’s ending is both profound and unsettling. It’s likely to haunt you
long after the credits have rolled. To say
anything more about the film would lessen its intended impact.
“Melancholia” is a depressing film to be sure, but what would you expect from an apocalypse flick conjured up in the delightfully sick mind of Lars Von Trier?
“Melancholia” is filmmaking at its finest, and lucky for you, it will be playing at I.V. Theater later this quarter as part of the Winter 2012 Magic Lantern film series. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see this … you never know, it could be your last.