Thursday, December 29, 2011

10. Melancholia

I have never been a fan of Kirsten Dunst; although I loved Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, for this film she won best actress at Cannes, which I don’t think this performance was particularly great. The movie has an interesting premise; the rich behaving badly can be entertaining. Lars von Trier's latest apocalyptic drama, "Melancholia," takes a similar route, but at the risk of overplaying the apocalyptic narrative.

Melancholia is the name of a planet that's on a collision course with Earth, just in time to spoil the extravagant wedding party of hedonistic rich girl Justine (Kirsten Dunst), whose marriage to Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) gets off to a rocky start. At first the bride and groom seem intoxicated with each other, but soon she's ripping her clothes, urinating on the grass and raping a guy named Tim.

"Melancholia" tells us the tale of two sisters who are polar opposites in every respect. Justine (Dunst) is a free-spirited career woman who's blond, attractive and just about to have it all marrying a perfect man, and by her nature, rejects it all.   Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Claire, a dark-haired, extremely thin in appearance and has given her life over to her very successful husband and perfect son, and yearns for Justine's life. This is literally set against the backdrop of the discovery of a new planet named Melancholia that's careening through space, supposedly only going to pass by Earth.
It's the end of the world as von Trier knows it, and he seems to dig it.

Their portrayal can be seen as both sensitive and pretentious and that can certainly come at odds for how you'll feel about them by the end. I've come to embrace the pretentiousness of von Trier's work simply because he knows how to balance it all with effective technical proficiency and leaves it all open to discussion, however as is the case with all of von Trier's movies, he invites you to bring your agendas and make your own interpretation.
It's an absolutely beautiful looking movie that brings to play all of von Trier's visual tricks. Pristine composed shots that work in combination with intentionally jittery handheld camera moments all designed to provoke and force the viewer to put together the pieces. Von Trier uses excerpts from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde to punctuate his scenes and furthers the haunting beauty of his film.

Perhaps "Melancholia" sounds less ponderous than it is. Certainly it's easier to grasp than Von Trier's previous epic, "Antichrist," thanks in part to the casting. Hurt and Rampling make an especially volatile ex-couple, though the wildly eclectic soundtrack sometimes seems to be fighting them. I'm a fan of Lars von Trier and any new movie from him is worth going to see. I found "Melancholia" to be mesmerizing.

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