Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Melancholia is a 2011 sci-fi drama directed and written by Lars von Trier. It's about a planet, Melancholia, colliding with Earth and the event's effect on the lives of two sisters. Starring Kirsten Dunst (Virgin Suicides), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Science of Sleep), and Kiefer Sutherland (24), you could say it has an all-star cast.

The first eight and a half minutes are imagery-filled slow-motion clips from the end of the story, the last of which is another planet crashing into Earth. It takes a lot of balls for a director to blow up our planet in the first eight minutes of the film. The slow start is not necessarily a bad thing. The orchestral score makes it quite an experience. It's reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The film is divided into two acts. The first follows Dunst's character, Justine, at her wedding reception. The second follows Gainsbourg's character, Claire, as the planet approaches, passes, and collides with Earth (I'm not spoiling anything, I swear. First eight minutes.) Both of their performances are flawless. I first heard of Charlotte Gainsbourg through her music career, but this movie proved to me that she is also a gifted actress.

The cinematography is almost entirely handheld. This unique approach gives the film a personal, candid feeling without looking like The Blair Witch Project. The camera is not a character.

With heavy themes of both depression and the end of everything, this is definitely a downer. I wouldn't advise watching it on your birthday. But really, when's the last time you saw a good tragedy? Our culture really celebrates comedy and happy endings, but that's only half of it. Tragedies make us thankful for what we have. Melancholia is a reminder that things can be sad and enjoyable at the same time.

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