There are certain things you have to come into with a Lars von Trier film. When looking at some of his major films including “Breaking the Waves”, “Dancer in the Dark”, “Dogville”, and his laugh riot “Antichrist”, it’s clear that his films will likely be draining and bleak. Yet his films are also completely fascinating and usually worth watching.
Due to Kirsten Dunst as the lead, “Melancholia” is getting a wider release than the rest of the films. That doesn’t mean this is more accessible. Reminiscent of the gorgeous yet demented begining of “Antichrist”, this opens with utter madness. The world is ending in slow motion with loud orchestra music guiding its equisetic scenes.
Then it’s right back to stark realism. A week before the planet will be destroyed, Dunst’s Justine is late to be married to Michael (“True Blood”’s Alexander Skarsgard). She is full of smiles when she’s around him, but that all seems to fade when she finally gets to the church. Surrounded by too many trivial things like a bean contest and unsupportive attendees, Justine starts to snap.
Snapping doesn’t include freaking out or self-mutilation (Dunst dodged that bullet). Instead she stops caring. She cuts herself off from her family and refuses to take part in insincere events. Yet in the minds of the movie, she’s the sanest of them all. Why should people pretend to tolerate rude speeches or empty formal dinners?
The stakes rise when a new planet is discovered hidden behind the sun and it seems to be heading right towards Earth. Justine’s sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and her brother-in-law, John (Kiefer Sutherland), react with overall denial of their impending doom.
On one hand “Melancholia”’s take on society never expressing their true emotions, even when they clash with the culture, is fascinating. When it takes the step forward and suggests that love, marriage, and most emotional relationships are equally frivolous it isn’t as convincing.
Overall there is odd beauty in all of the disaster. Dunst and Gainsbourg are brilliant together as sisters failing to understand their lives. Their pain and sympathy is what drives the film into such a compelling drama. As he’s evolved, von Trier has been able to use his dogma filmmaking and mix it with high style into an effective new blend of storytelling. Even though this isn’t as complex as some of his other efforts, this crazy Dane continues to captivate.