Melancholia (5/5/12)

MelancholiaMovie One Hundred Eleven

Melancholia is a film by polarizing filmmaker Lars Von Trier about two sisters and their relationship as a planet hurtles toward Earth.

The film opens with several super slow motion shots of some of the events to come, including the planet, Melancholia, from space. The movie then begins with the incredibly lavish wedding of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) who acts, for lack of a better word, strangely. She notices a red star in the sky and her sister’s husband (Kiefer Sutherland) says it’s Antares. The next day the star is missing from the sky. The second half of the film focuses on the other sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and how the family deals with Melancholia, each in vastly different ways.

I am pleased that I was able to give a brief summary of Melancholia without giving much away in terms of the plot. If you have seen Von Trier’s last film, Antichrist, you may be aware at how obtuse and plodding his films can be and Melancholia is a bit more structured, but still esoteric. Now, this is not a bad film. In fact, it’s a visually stunning film for the most part. Where Melancholia (and Antichrist before it) fail, is in some of the character design. While I was never completely miffed by some of their actions, there were times when I had a hard time believing them.

The underlying message of Melancholia, if you can call it that, is depression. Justine is obviously depressed, almost comatose in the second half, and her central character is not one I identified with. I enjoyed watching Melancholia, but I would have a hard time recommending it. Melancholia has some very beautiful and interesting scenes and when it ended my mind lingered on it, but I would doubtfully ever watch it again.

I give it 3 lightning fingers out of 5.

PS – My wife and I watched this during the Supermoon for a little added “oomph”


Rotten Tomatoes


36 responses to “Melancholia (5/5/12)

  1. Von Trier definitely knows how to mess with our minds but here, he’s pretty straight-forward the whole time and even though I can’t go wrong with that, it doesn’t do much to help out this pretty familiar story. Dunst and everybody else are all pretty good but the flick all seemed very one-note for me until the last 20 minutes when everything came together. Good review Andy.

    • Lots of interesting things to think about from your analysis. It seems like the type of film where a critical analysis commentary track would help me (and likely many others) to get the most out of the film.

      • I agree, an analysis commentary track would have been great and really insightful. Melancholia is the kind of film you could go completely crazy analysing and I could be way off the mark with my thoughts; it’s certainly an intriguing film if nothing else.

  2. I was interested in seeing the film, but never got the chance (yes, I missed many important films of last year).

    I don’t exactly like Lars Von Triers as a person after his comments at Cannes last year, but I do appreciate him a a director. From what I’ve heard, Melancholia looks a little bit what one of my favorites last year, The Tree of Life.

    • It shares some vague similarities with Tree of Life, but Tree of Life even at its most esoteric is still leaps and bounds more decipherable than this, at least to me.
      I found Tree of Life to be far superior but I’d be interested in hearing what you think about Melancholia!

      • the stephen king short story was incredibly short. it was about a girl who met a rich guy, about the graduate college. she occasionally goes out to his wealthy family’s home, in the pool, tennis court. one day they’re in front of the house and see a red glow in the distance towards new york. story set on long island i think. girl says it’s a bomb. boy’s mom slaps her and says that’s nothing to joke about. then there’s incredible heat, their eyes tear, their hair blows in the sudden wind. end of story. oh well.

  3. Nice review. I turned Antichrist off after the first twenty minutes, but I really enjoyed watching what he did with Dogville. He’s one of the more unique artists out there – to say the least. What I have seen of this one is more than enough for me. Nice to see Kirsten break out of her shell and do something different.

  4. I have this on my rental list. I saw a preview and was intrigued. It might be one of those films that you either love or hate. We’ll see which it is for me. Thanks Andy!

  5. Great review. I absolutely agree. I’m torn between which Von Trier film I prefer (Antichrist or Melancholia). The latter’s visually stunning but the former features an AMAZING performance by Charlotte Gainsbourg.

  6. This movie rubbed me the wrong way. Initially, I thought it was bearable. Even though I’m not keen on Dunst as an actress, I was interested in her character. As it went on, I felt that it stalled on the idea of depression instead of exploring what is it about the affliction that’s so crippling. Dunst had some believable scenes, like she feeling that it was her duty to put on a smile for her guests, but the insular symbolisms mixed with deathly slow pacing bored me. (And how masturbatory was that intro?)

    I like von Trier as a director. He won me over when I saw “Dogville” in high school. Though more straightforward than most of his work, for me, it was an experiment gone wrong.

  7. That’s so neat about your wife and you watching this during a Supermoon!! Great timing.

    I haven’t seen any of Lars Von Trier, but I know that if he can direct a movie called AntiChrist, I certainly do not want to watch him. He sounds disturbing as all hell. However, I’ve heard this one’s pretty depressing, as well. The critics, in general, gave it positive reviews, but I have yet to see someone write a review that elevates it higher than a 3-star or that equivalent. Great writeup as usual.

    • Antichrist is not a religious movie in any upfront sort of way, but I don’t think it would be something you’d enjoy for other reasons. Melancholia is a much more accessible film anyway. It’s a stunning visual film with a plot that is very hit or miss with folks, it seems. Thanks!

      • No problem! I know AntiChrist isn’t a religious movie (is it AntiChrist or Antichrist or Anti-Christ? I always have trouble with the capitalization/hyphenation of that word, and “Antichrist” looks weird to me because “Christ” is a proper noun), but it makes it sound so blasphemous and sacrilegious. The plot seems disturbing as all hell. I’m going to leave that film alone unless I’m placed in a torture room and forced to watch it. (Which is a) unlikely and b) not really torture because I’m watching a freaking movie! :))

  8. I’m not a huge von Trier fan, but I found Melancholia surprisingly beautiful. You’re right, it does plod along in places, but there is something profoundly magical about it, especially the gorgeous cinematography which I thought was stunning.

    • I’m usually shaky-cam averse, but I thought it did help give a sense of intimacy to the characters. Maybe a static camera would have helped keep things focused, though. Interesting point

  9. Pingback: May Movies Round-Up | Andy Watches Movies

  10. Interesting review, it seems like people either love it or loathe it. I haven’t seen it but want to watch it to see what I personally think of it.

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