‘Melancholia’ Review: Visually Striking and Full of Wisdom
Oh, I was referring to Kirsten Dunst, but I suppose that applies to the movie too! Melancholia is a film that uses surrealism to tell two simple stories. But these simple stories contain fascinating characters and beautiful imagery that force it onto a higher level of thought than one might take from simply reading a basic plot outline. It is a film for intellectual analysis, not a fun time at the movies.
The film is divided into two parts. The first is Dunst’s character’s, Justine, wedding. It is simple, but the writing is excellent as the family slowly churns its insanity to effectively destroy the wedding. Justine’s father flirts very obviously with two women in front of her mother. Justine’s mother first claims not to believe in marriage to everyone at the reception and puts a damper on her daughter’s shining moment. Then there’s her boss, portrayed as a blackmailing collection of slime by Stellan Skarsgard. All three of them bring the happiness of Justine’s wedding day to just another day of Hell with a broken family. The slow build up and documentary style cinematography makes everything feel as if it is happening in real time, and not in a bad way. Tensions boil over and everything eventually collapses.
The second part deals with the newly discovered planet that the movie is named after slowly moving towards the Earth. Claire, Justine’s sister, and her husband, played by Keifer Sutherland, prepare for the plant to pass by Earth and Sutherland’s character insists that it will never hit Earth. The ending is obvious but it doesn’t affect the quality of the movie and instead bring the whole story to a stirring crescendo. The last half hour is brilliantly paced as the final events unfold quickly but not too fast that you don’t feel them.
The whole cast does a fantastic job, but it is Kirsten Dunst who rises above all expectations and delivers a subtle, disturbed performance. I would not be surprised if her name came up for Oscar season. Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays Claire, is also brilliant. Her eventual breakdown is incredibly believable. Sutherland doesn’t do much out of his range here but his character is likable, and more development with his character could have muddled Dunst and Gainsbourg. The talents of Stellan Skarsgard and John Hurt are not wasted in their small roles.
My only complaint about the film is its length. At over two hours, Melancholia drags a bit. I caught myself checking the time multiple times. The pacing is good, it’s just hard to sit and watch this type of movie for over two hour.
Otherwise, Melancholia is not a movie to miss. The visuals are stunning and the performances of the two sisters are beautiful. The meaning of it all is ambiguous but not completely impossible to decipher. Every viewer will likely take something different from it. This is film that begs a second viewing and if you can get past its length, you will beg for that too. (***1/2 out of 4)
photo credit: http://filmsponge.com/tag/melancholia