23 09 2011

If you’ve seen any of Lars von Trier’s previous work, or perhaps an interview, you’ll know he’s a sick dude. Sick in both a good and bad way. But a damn good filmmaker, an artist, I think. That is, if you consider what kinds of movies he likes to make.

“Melancholia” is possibly the most Lars von Trier film I’ve seen, if you know what I mean. I’m still recovering from last year’s “Antichrist,” so I’m glad to see he’s loosened up, and in turn, made a better film; perhaps even his best?

The movie is presented in two parts: Justine and Claire. The Justine part centers on, wow, Justine! She’s just married, and they’re having a party at his sister’s husband’s castle which pretty much functions as a huge bed-and-breakfast with a golf course.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and her husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are late for the party, and this causes problems between Justine and her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who already have enough on their hands with planning the overly expensive wedding and keeping their ignorant, cold mother at bay. Justine falls into depression. Claire’s husband (Kiefer Sutherland) complains about spending a lot of money over Justine just being depressed throughout the wedding. And we get a slightly humoric addon with Stellan Skarsgård as Justine’s boss who’d do anything for money. The whole wedding eventually goes wrong.

In parallel to this, a huge planet that has been “hiding behind the sun” moves towards Earth and will eventually crash into our blue pearl. I know what you’re thinking. Spoiler! Well no, not really, since the movie opens with Earth being destroyed. I don’t know why, but I guess it’s got something to do with art.

The second part, Claire, focuses on the aftermath of the wedding gone wrong. Justine is completely depressed, can’t seem to be able to even move, and now Claire has to take care of her sister. John, that’s Claire’s husband, starts complaining again. We also learn about the planet, and John issues some reassuring comments that it will absolutely not crash into Earth, but we know the truth.

Justine is played effectively by Kirsten Dunst. I wouldn’t say it’s worthy of an Oscar, perhaps not even a nomination, but I guess the Cannes people saw something in her performance to give her the Best Actress award. I’m happy for her, and she gives a good performance, but I don’t see anything award-worthy. If you exclude the nude scenes, that is. Oh yeah.

A better performance was given by Charlotte Gainsbourg. I’d be happy to see her garner a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and the same for Kiefer Sutherland. That guy’s just a badass.

So as a Lars von Trier film, “Melancholia” is perfect. As an awards film, “Melancholia” is easily among the better movies of the year. And as an artistic film, “Melancholia” is a Mona Lisa of Cinema, or a Michelangelo’s David, or some other important art thing. I didn’t like it as much as the similar “The Tree of Life,” but “Melancholia” is a good film.

Rating: ★★★





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