Sunday, May 26, 2013

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Melancholia" (2011)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #6

Melancholia

In the years 2009-early 2012, there were many stories having to deal with the end of the world to some extent. The same thing happened in popular culture before Y2K in 1999. Every single time somebody says the world will end at a certain date, pop culture goes wild. Why not? It's profitable, that point has been proven time and again. If we as an audience are lucky, it will even be smart, invigorating and entertaining. Of all the films made dealing with the end of the world, I think my favorite maybe "Melancholia."

In 2011, I firmly believe that Kirsten Dunst should have won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in "Melancholia." It is truly one of the biggest letdowns the Academy pulled off in recent years. The Academy has lots of sins to answer for when the world truly does end, but this is surely one of the big recent blunders. You have never witnessed Dunst so alive, so absorbed into a role before. The biggest reason to see the film to watch how great Dunst is, I think most wont believe its her.

But let's back up a bit. "Melancholia" tackles the story of a wedding between a family of individuals who all have radically different opinions about love. The tension and anxiety within the family is clear as the movie plays out. They are all together for better or for worse, the weekend of the wedding. All the while Earth gets destroyed by an incoming planet.

I will warn you right off the bat, this film is the very definition of "art" cinema. The film opens with slow motion images of the world in chaos. Our main characters are running for cover, trees are burning, birds are falling from the sky, a horse falling down dead, shots in space of a huge blue planet in a collision course to Earth. The montage is surreal, haunting and beautiful all at the same time. You got to give the filmmakers credit for pulling off such marvelous images.

After the opening montage is done, the title fills the screen. Then we see the films first part is labeled "Justine." Justine is played by Kirsten Dunst and we meet her and her newly bonded husband (Alexander Skarsgard) are two hours late to their own reception. Once they finally make it we meet her family. Her sister and her sister's husband (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland) and how they paid lots of money for a reception that goes disastrously off course. We meet Justine's divorced parents, a father (John Hurt) who is openly very proud of her two daughters, and her mother (Charlotte Rampling) who is disgusted by the celebration, a firm non-believer in love. We also meet Justine's boss (Stellan Skarsgard) who spends the entire evening trying to get work out of his employee. Justine is particularly distant and depressed the whole night, what is bothering her? Why is she so distraught?

The second half of the film is called "Claire." We follow Justine's sister and we also learn more about the planet Melancholia which has been hiding behind the sun for sometime. There is talk in the media of a debate between scientist about whether or not Melancholia will collide with Earth or not. The anxiety begins to evenlope Claire as the idea of maybe losing her son is too much to handle. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland step up to the plate and deliver piercing performances. Together, they carry the second half of the film just as Kirsten carried the fist half. It is great work by everyone all around.

The cinematography and special effects all throughout the film is gorgeous. It feels like a piece of art come to life, coupled with the wonderful performances by all the players, it equals an event you won't want to miss out on. Like I said above, Dunst really seals the deal for me. She makes you feel every ounce of her depression and sadness. 

Writer and director Lars von Trier is an interesting filmmaker. Whether you like his films or hate them, you are likely to get an emotional reaction of some kind out of them. He is a man with a powerful voice and commanding eye, and his films sear your emotions. 2009's "Antichrist" was also written and directed by Trier, it starred Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Its a horror film I liked quite a bit but it's definitely not for everyone and its a film I have a very hard time sitting through. He's a creative man and "Melancholia" features some of his most tame work. He tells a very good story well here, and that's the biggest thing I ask for from my movies.

"Melancholia" is available on Netflix Instant Stream

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