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Netflix Instant Pick: Melancholia

Updated: Sep 23, 2018

By Kelly

Melancholia is a good name for this film. Calling it anything else would not prepare you. Though you do have to suspend disbelief that the dark planet destined to hit earth would even be called Melancholia, the very thing that Justine (Kirsten Dunst) suffers from to such a degree that she can’t even enjoy her own wedding and her wonderful new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgård). (Seriously, who wouldn’t be happy marrying Eric from True Blood? I really had to suspend disbelief for that one.) But the planet’s name is a little too convenient, but like all Lars von Trier movies, it’s art, so just embrace the obvious metaphor.

I’ve actually been intrigued with this movie since the first trailer, but held off because I couldn’t get anyone to see it with me (“it looked too depressing”) and because a fellow Chickster warned me that von Trier also directed Dogville and “You don’t want to see Dogville.” Based on what I’ve heard, I think that’s true.

But I wasn’t afraid of Melancholia from the get-go. I guess I admired its honesty. From the trailer, you have no doubt that the world will end, but this movie seems to be more about the complex emotions about accepting the end of the world or not being able to. For sisters Justine and Claire, it’s a rather bare and sad end, but isn’t that to be expected? I don’t mind if a movie’s depressing if it’s honest and interesting. And I will say that after just reading a description of Dogville, I was expecting much worse.

It’s also visually striking, well-acted (Dunst received the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival and Kiefer Sutherland is always good), emotionally absurd—rendering it very honest—and masterful in it’s cinematography.

But it wasn’t without flaws either. The beginning was really slow, literally. There were about 10 minutes of painfully unnecessary slow motion, though almost everything captured was visually pleasing and well-executed special effects. And I did have a hard time being on Dunst’s side when she couldn’t enjoy such a beautiful wedding. Sure, I know that deep depression renders you unable to feel happy when you should and that’s why it’s so demobilizing, but I couldn’t help sighing every now and then and thinking “Geez, chick. Just take a freakin’ Prozac.”

But again, it also makes me wonder if von Trier had a deeper meaning there (likely). Women are physically affected by the moon, so maybe the movement of an entire planet could really screw up the chi of one who’s already depressed, beyond mood stabilizers. If that is what he meant to imply, he did hint at it a little when twice in Justine’s part of the story (when the approach of the dark planet wasn’t yet known), she pointed out the strange behavior of the stars and seemed to see a meaning that no one else did.

Overall, I would not avoid this one if you have an interest. But be prepared for some slowness and some inevitable sadness.

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