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Review

‘Melancholia’ offers stunning performances, vivid visuals

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November 18, 2011

Director Lars Von Trier is back with another artistic film, this one being about the relationship between two sisters as a mysterious new planet has the possibility of crashing into the earth. “Melancholia” is split into two separate parts with the first focusing on sister Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, who is selfish, self-indulgent, and depressed.

She is at her wedding reception with a husband who is madly in love yet Justine continuously disappears out of the reception to think and focus on other things. We soon learn her sister Claire, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, and brother-in-law John, played by Kiefer Sutherland, were the ones who spent all the money on this lavish wedding.

We see the difference in personality between Justine and Claire; Justine remains depressed, slowly learning her true feelings for he marriage as the night goes on. While all this is going on we see glimpses of the planet known as Melancholia getting closer to the Earth that is set to pass by in the coming days. After the disastrous wedding reception that involves an incident between Justine and her father, mother, sister and boss, we get part two of the film.

Part two is titled “Claire” which follows Claire, John, and a very depressed Justine staying together as Melancholia is making its trek to pass by the Earth. John is an astronomer who is fascinated by the planet and everything that will happen while Claire is a mess, is afraid of what could happen if it crashes through the Earth’s atmosphere. Along with this, Claire cares for her now really depressed sister that still gives little feedback and little reasons to really like her as a person. We follow this story right up until we figure out what will happen with the planet of Melancholia.

Dunst has been getting tons of Oscar buzz for her work in this film and she is slowly becoming one of my favorite actresses. Her one-dimensional approach to this character works, as you can’t dislike her as she still has moments of kindness, that keep the viewer skeptical of how she is as a person. Gainsbourg is also great as the sister in a role that is also worthy of winning some awards, as she becomes the life of the second part of “Melancholia” that begins to drag. All the performances here are really great, but it’s the bulk of the film itself that really stands out.

Von Trier has directed other beautiful looking films such as the “Antichrist” and “Dogville” that really push the boundaries of how subtle a movie can be, but how shocking the images can
be. The first few minutes of “Melancholia” have Claire narrating what she feels about life and depression and we see slow motion shots of scenes that will all play out later in the film. The most outstanding sequence shows Dunst in her wedding dress slowly floating in a river. “Melancholia” is close to being great but just can’t achieve this due to the slow story that sometimes goes nowhere, which will turn off some viewers. Still, “Melancholia” is one of the better films of 2011.

Dustyn Dubuque is a history major and geography minor that has a love and passion for film. He watches over 100 films each year and loves Academy Awards season.