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Melancholia

Melancholia

“Melancholia”

Sci-fi/Drama/Art House

Cast: Kirsten Dunst (Justine), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Claire), Alexander Skarsgard (Michael), Charlotte Rampling (Gaby), Stellan Skarsgard (Jack), Cameron Spurr (Leo), Kiefer Sutherland (John). Running time:136 minutes. Director: Lars von Trier. 

“Melancholia” opens up with the classical composition Tristan und Isolde* by Richard Wagner while some of the cast are standing still or moving in eerily slow motion. What a beautiful send off with the underbelly of fate if one looks closely in the eyes of the characters.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) has just gotten married to Michael ( life forms (including Alexander Skarsgard), both bride and groom join the wedding party at a mansion on a golf course. Justine’s consumed by depression, her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) the practical one, and her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) reminds himself of how sumptuous the wedding party is. Justine and Claire’s father (John Hurt) calls every cute woman at the party “Betty”. The sisters’ mother (Charlotte Rampling), long divorced from their father, in her wedding toast blasts out a fatalistic statement: “Enjoy it while it lasts” (I presume she means the wedding).

But Justine runs out of the wedding party and never consummates the marriage. She sleeps with her boss’ new hire. Her fatalism is expressed in her statement: “The Earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it”. Justine’s remark is not flippant but a prophesy in the making. Justine’s neurosis finds itself affecting Claire, Leo (Cameron Spurr) and John as the skies sees the planet “Melancholia” move ever closer to Earth.

Director Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” is unfaltering cerebral like director Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” although different because, for once, the former methodically visualizes the “death” of the Earth and its life forms and the latter visually depicts the birth of the Earth and its life forms (including dinosaurs).

Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic film is serene with a handful of characters devoid of the usual apocalyptic films of panic in the streets of cities in the world, tortured TV commentators predicting impending destruction (of the Earth), or sending off nukes from the U.S. and Russia (the stilted movie “Meteor”[1978] comes to mind) to divert or destroy the oncoming planet or meteor.

“Melancholia” is beautiful, haunting and one of the most provocative–if not the most provocative of–films of the year.

* Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde, or Tristan and Isolda, or Tristran and Ysolt) is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner

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