It was a very large "close your eyes and hope for the best" kind of situation when my husband and I cued this movie up on our Netflix. It is directed by Lars Von Trier, a Danish fellow who has been heralded as a genius, but just as often inspires a violent kind of loathing for his work. If you want some lazy fun one afternoon, just Google him and see. There is generally no middle ground.
Hubby and I would be in the loathing category. I admit this is a bit judgmental because I've only seen a few of his movies (The Kingdom, Dogville, Antichrist). But we hated Antichrist SO MUCH...we were so offended by everything that movie stood for...that I doubted I would ever be able to evaluate one of his movies impartially ever again.
But Melancholia got such praise that we had to try. And even a couple of weeks after I've seen the thing, I'm not entirely sure how I feel. Loathing is not one of my emotions however.
The movie begins with an absolutely stunning slow-motion sequence...artistic, surreal shots of the movie's characters in both vignettes symbolic of their lives, and of their last moments before the planet Melancholia may collide with Earth. All to the prelude of Wagner's opera "Tristan und Isolde". If you only have 10 minutes to spare, watch this. It's probably the best part of the movie. That, and the last 10 minutes.
The movie is then split into two parts. In Part I, it is Justine's (Kirsten Dunst) wedding night. She has a wide-eyed adoring husband (Alexander Skarsgard) and her reception is being paid for by her uber-wealthy sister and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland), in their gazillion-dollar mansion. But Justine is broken on the inside and suffering from severe depression, and soon things begin to fall apart. Justine leaves the reception to take a bath, then leaves again later to have sex with a young party guest out on the golf course. Her control unravels while her dysfunctional family bickers, the groom leaves and her stolid sister tries to smooth the wrinkles. And while melancholia saturates the wedding party, Melancholia hurtles towards Earth. This portion of the movie was rather uninspiring, unless you want a case study on depression in a stomach-turning, uncomfortable car wreck kind of way.
In Part 2, the wedding is over (in every way possible). Now the focus is on this rogue planet that may or may not hit the Earth. Justine, who is hanging out at her sister's mansion, has adopted a Zen-like calm in the face of possible annihilation. The roles are reversed and her sister is in a fevered panic, but her husband and son are treating it all like a fascinating science project. Questions are entertained about how one spends their last breathing hours (which of course starts a spirited discussion in the Nawrot household). It was good fun, this second half. Because everyone loves a good apocalypse. Don't they?
Based on the Von Trier movies I've seen, I might say that he tries a little too hard to be clever and artistic. For example, there are all kinds of highbrow references and allusions to classic art and music embedded within this movie. He throws in random nudity, scenes that are supposed to look like a famous painting, etc. I'm not sure what he is trying to prove with all this...that he is a cultured genius? See, I still have bad-attitude-baggage-anger over Antichrist. But aside from all this posturing, I will admit that there is something entrancing about this movie that won't leave me. The end of days will do that to you.
I might add that the acting is first-rate with a loaded cast in their finest hour. Dunst actually won Best Actress at Cannes.
If you are looking for something a little different (you can always count on different from this director) and can stand the discomfort of the first part, you could be pleasantly surprised. Or you could hate it.
4 out of 5 stars