Wed 30 Nov 2016
When he is not making provocative statements at news conferences Lars von Trier makes movies. Some of them are shocking. Some of them are stunning. I did not like all his films (Dogville was too dry an experiment for me) and I am yet to see Nymphomaniac. Melancholia however falls in the category of those films of his which I love – together with the TV series The Kingdom and with Breaking the Waves. Many film makers dealt with the end of the world (and some with what comes after). The majority of them made catastrophic movies – in all sense you want to consider this. Lars van Trier made a poetic and amazingly beautiful film.
The film is divided in two parts, each deals closer with one of the two sisters belonging to a very rich and a troubled family living in a mansion surrounded by green pastures, with servants and black horses, with telescopes to entertain the hobby of watching the stars. Justine, the younger sister (Kirsten Dunst) gets married in the first part. It’s an unusual marriage, and the bride does not seem too happy about the event. Her behavior is close to erratic, and the aristocratic wedding party turns into a failure. Is she sick by the kind of mental depression that centuries ago was called melancholy? Does the mysterious planet in the sky that at some point covers one of the stars have any influence or connection with her state?
The second part focuses first on the other, elder sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). She is apparently the more mature of the two and controls the situation the day after and a few months after the breaking of the party, when Justine, in a visibly deteriorating state comes to the mansion. The mysterious gas planet now appears to be on collision path with Earth, or maybe not, as scientists and John, Charlotte’s husband (Kiefer Sutherland) believe. Soon the balance will be reversed, as the death dance played by the planets becomes more and more menacing. Justine, the younger sister who first felt the power of the planets will regain control and find the magic to face the inevitable, Claire will be the one to slide into despair, while John will be unable to use the rational, scientific approach to explain or cope with what happens.
This film is about the power of stars, about the irrelevance of the social relations when compared with the cosmic dimensions, about sanity and insanity and the balance between them. It’s fascinating and its beauty has the source in the splendid cinematography (by Manuel Alberto Claro) , in the superb cast (besides Dunst and Gainsbourg, a few other remarkable actors appear in the first half of the film – Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt). It’s simply the most beautiful film about the end of the world that I have seen, or even better – the most beautiful end of the world brought on screen.