Saturday, November 12, 2011

Phil sees MELANCHOLIA at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-November 11, 2011

Hollywood films depicting the end of the world isn't anything new. This has been staple for quite sometime now. Usually it is either caused by space aliens, an asteroid, or some man made nuclear device that devastates all life on Earth. Pretty much the same old cliches that I find rather boring. However, when I went to the Camera 7 in the Pruneyard Campbell to see director Lars von Trier's new film MELANCHOLIA, I can honestly say that this was the most beautiful apocalypse that I have ever seen in a film before!

Theatrical Movie Poster (2011)
In this mesmerizing and poetic film about the end of the world, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) are celebrating their wedding at a fancy party in the home of her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her wealthy husband John (Kiefer Sutherland). Despite their best efforts, the wedding is a disaster, due to family squabbling, lack of love and support, and Justine's deep depression. To make matters worse, the mysterious planet called Melancholia, which has been hidden behind the sun for all this time, is now on a collision course with Earth. With the end of the world in sight, the two sisters try to make peace with one another and be a family again before it is too late.

While watching a Lars von Trier film, one expects certain themes woven within the frames, and this film continues with this tradition: death, sorrow, cynicism, and symbolism. Unlike his previous film, 2009's controversial ANTICHRIST, von Trier also throws into the mix just a pinch of science fiction as well as humor, especially in the beginning of the film, as if to throw the audience off after witnessing the majestic opening collage of images portraying the end of the world set to the music from the overture of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. However, this opening sets up the middle and end of the film. The beginning of the story explains our characters as well as how they face their fears and their mortality.

The film is divided into two parts: the first concentrating on Justine. We are immediately thrust into her wedding, and it would seem on the surface that Justine is quite happy. But then the smile fades away, and soon she is all doom and gloom. She escapes from her family, friends, guests, and even her new husband by hiding out in her room, taking baths with her veil still on, as if it was permanently attached to head as a reminder that today should be the happiest day of her life. Instead, the veil feels more like an anchor, which sinks her deeper into her depression. She seeks help and advise from her parents, however both are too busy with their disdain for one another to help their daughter out. Her sister Claire does all she can to cheer up her up, even making her favorite meal; meatloaf. But it doesn't help, and according to Justine it, "tastes like ashes." It's as if she's choking on the ashes of life itself, which could be seen as her personal view on life, or as some kind of warning that death is coming.

Part two focuses on Claire and her apparent inability to handle Justine's massive depression, her husband's loathe for her sister, and the fear that the wayward planet Melancholia will come crashing into Earth. Eventually her fears are realized and soon her and John lose control and let fear cloud their better judgment. Throughout part two, we see John as the voice of reason, reassuring to his scared wife that Melancholia is just passing by and in now way will it harm Earth. John soon realizes that he was incorrect, and "leaves" while both Justine and Claire, and her son Leo (Cameron Spurr) are left to witness their inescapable fates.

Again, von Trier's directing style in the film is very reminiscent of is early Dogma 95 days: hand held cameras, using mostly natural and available lighting that's there, and filming on location. But there are certain aspects that he has injected into his film: using established actors, musical soundtracks, and a dash of CGI; mostly for the planet Melancholia. With these added tools to his repertoire, von Trier has been able to transcend his films into works of art. Dunst is absolutely captivating in the film. Her performance as Justine will not doubt garner her a Best Actress nomination at next year's Oscars. Her best work ever!

MELANCHOLIA is a haunting and astonishing film; a visceral achievement that delves deep in the human psyche and exposes to us our fears and our intricities. The word melancholia is a Greek word meaning sadness, literally black bile. With his film, Lars von Trier has added a new definition to this particular word: illumination.

MELANCHOLIA is currently playing in select theaters nationwide, including the Camera Cinemas. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm this sounds interesting. On my to watch list for sure now : )