561 of 591 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2011
I've read some of the reviews here and I think a lot of people are looking at this film in a wrong perspective. The idea for the film originated during a therapy session Lars von Trier attended during treatments for his depression. The therapist told him that depressive people tend to act more calmly than others under heavy pressure, because they already expect bad things to happen. It's not about science fiction and it's not a disaster movie. It's a film that examines the human psyche during a disaster. The film is very subtle and yes slow at times but as someone whos struggled with severe depression I related to and understood Kirsten Dunst's character so much. We're dealing with such flawed and sad characters so the slow pace made sense. I would say this is more of a psychological drama than anything else. This film is so beautiful and the acting is superb.
314 of 338 people found the following review helpful
"Melancholia" may be the most accessible Lars Von Trier film I've ever seen. (However, for a director who often goes out of his way to alienate, repulse, and irritate his audience, that is not saying much.) "Melancholia" is beautifully shot and visually lovely to look at; gone is the difficult visual minimalism of films like "Dogville". Also gone is the gory brutality that is often part of Von Trier's films (especially his last film, "Antichrist".) "Melancholia" is a thoughtful, fascinating film told in two distinct, yet overlapping, parts.
The first part, "Justine", is a realistic, sad family drama which tells the story of a young bride who implodes on her wedding day. Just married to a handsome man, promoted by her boss, and treated to a lavish party by her rich brother-in-law, Justine has every reason to be happy. Except she's not. Behind her forced smile, she's hiding a dark depression. By the end of the night Justine's depression, along with the selfishness and dysfunction of those around her, cause her to destroy both her brand new marriage and her career, and spiral into a dramatic depressive breakdown. Von Trier seems to have a deep interest in female protagonists who are being crushed by the expectations of those around them. In films like "Breaking the Waves" and "Dancer in the Dark", the characters were treated to sordid and gruesome abuse, but in the first half of "Melancholia", Justine is a more or less ordinary person suffering in a more conventional and relatable way.
The second part of the film, "Claire", puts the focus on Justine's older sister. Claire is concerned about the reports in the news that a previously unknown planet, named Melancholia, will be passing close to the Earth's orbit. While most scientists believe that the planet will pass at a safe distance, there are those who also believe that an imminent collision will mean the end of the world. Claire's anxiety about the situation builds as the planet comes closer. Claire is also dealing with her sister's (Justine) post-wedding nervous breakdown. As the planet grows ever closer to Earth, the tension builds, until the characters are left to deal with the very real possibility that the world is going to end.
By splitting the film up into two parts in this way, "Melancholia" explores the themes of loss, destruction, impermanence, and loneliness, first on an intimate scale ("Justine") and then on a global scale ("Claire"). Although the film is provocative and often painful, it's more subtle and nuanced than any of Von Trier's other films I've seen, and perhaps more affective.
92 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2013
"It's the terror of knowing what this world is about.....", David Bowie/Queen's song, "Under Pressure"........ The first time I tried to watch this film, I failed. I came back to it a few months later and I'm glad I did. I thought this was a movie about a bunch of rich spoiled folks...I was wrong.
The main female character is getting married but there's a problem, she's neurotic and depressed. She hasn't really developed a good defensive lie of character like almost everyone else around her. Her soul is naked and she feels exposed and at the same time she sees through everyone else's lies and it is destroying her. She sees the horror of life in front and behind her and the terror of death before her. She sees it and feels it and can't stop these feelings or this pressure.......Everyone gives up on her except her sister.
When it looks like the whole world is going to be destroyed she handles it better than anyone else because she's lived with this terror all her life and now the suffering may come to an end......Maybe the underlying cause of depression is knowing what life is really about, without illusions and not being able to express it or understand it. Van Tier is definitely on to something here.....
This movie is not just a science fiction drama about the end of the world, it's about death and the lies that we tell ourselves everyday so that we can get to the end ........ It doesn't matter if the world ends with a bang or a whimper, it's coming.......get ready.
Lars Van Tier does his usual excellent work. Cinematography, acting, music all of it superb. One of the best movies I've ever seen.
301 of 342 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
Art films, even great ones, will always have their detractors ...with accusations of pretension & the like. I'm not going to insult anyone who didn't like Melancholia with the standard "go watch Transformers or the latest Sandler flick" attitude. That's why they make 31 flavors. Besides, I love a good popcorn movie as much as anyone. But I kinda feel bad for the bashers of this film in the same way I feel bad for those who don't enjoy Mozart along with their Nirvana. And this is an orchestral, majestic art-house masterpiece ...full of beauty, pain, immorality, love, lust, fear & a dash of sci-fi. What a departure from LvT's usual shock treatment. It stayed in my thoughts for days.
Even if they didn't like it, I can't imagine a real movie lover not at least seeing the craftsmanship in this movie. I just can't take seriously any one-star reviews of this. I think those ratings are a backlash from the rather arrogant "go watch Transformers instead" type comments from the artsy crowd. So if you didn't get into this, that's cool. But the one-star "worst movie ever" reviews have zero cred.
131 of 146 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2011
This is, hands down, THE most beautiful film I have ever seen. I'm sorry, articulation is not my strong point, but all of these one star reviews... baffling. I cannot imagine we were watching the same film. Von Trier has taken existential dread to new heights with this one. Everybody's worst fear, fully realized right there on the screen...
45 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
Von Trier's latest, "Melancholia" is certainly a departure from the typical. Looking at its origins (in Von Trier's own bouts with depression), one can't help but see the poignancy in both the story told through the characters, and in the beauty of the cinematography.
Action-packed, it is not. Science fiction, it is barely. For those who have either experienced depression or have had family members struggle with it, the film is likely to hit home in one way or another.
Not for all, but this movie certainly called to me despite my misgivings about Kirsten Dunst's ability to fulfill this role. I'm glad I rented it, and if after watching the previews you too feel a compulsion to see what Cannes was raving about, I'd strongly recommend the rental.
Strengths: Cinematography, Acting, Dialogue
Weaknesses: Slow at times, Narrow Appeal
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2013
After watching Side By Side, the documentary about the shift away from celluloid film to digital media, I wanted to see one of the new films mentioned. I chose this one, and it was worth the effort.
If you have suffered from an Affective Disorder such as depression, you will probably relate to this film. If you have not, there may not be much here for you except the lush cinematography. The new medium can capture *real* nighttime and starlight, unlike earlier film which used "Day For Night" (yes, there is an old movie with that title).
The scenes shot both inside and outside are riveting. The entire film is like a dream sequence punctuated by moments of "reality". And, to my mind, at least, the entire enterprise reveals much of what it is like to experience life-long depression. It also shows why it is so difficult for people like us to have any "faith" beyond this existence. There is redemption and reconciliation in the final scene, however, as two sisters clasp hands and meet their fate together.
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2012
Melancholia is one-star awful if you're looking for a date movie, realism, a fable, action, memorable characters, love conquering all, laughs, tears, life lessons, good guys finding a way through, or a beginning, middle and end. If you're in this camp, don't read any further.
But if you're a fictionhead--someone deeply interested in the deceits and values of fiction--Melancholia is a five-star film. In this regard, it's on par with Drugstore Cowboy, High Art, Wings of Desire, Trainspotting and The Virgin Suicides. And within shouting distance of cinema's all-time best rumination on the meaning of fiction, The Third Man.
Why? Because Melancholia is about endings and nothing but. Charlotte Rampling introduces herself with a bridge-burning interruption of an inept toast. There's nowhere for her character to go two minutes after she appears. Ditto for her ex, who's crushed on arrival by her interruption. Stellan Skarsgaard's character is set up as the archvillain, then sent packing along with the other would-be antagonists (the paramour, the business partners, and the mother) halfway through what usually amounts to the first act in a feature film.
It matters that the man of finance, order and science (the brother-in-law) miscalculates with a glib, unsatisfying nod to the uncertainty principle, then winds up kicked in the head by a horse. It matters too that the earnest, tender characters--the groom and the sister--are unfailingly inarticulate and/or dead wrong when it counts, because they both want storytelling progressions (gestures that suggest hope for the future, and actions that improve on the present) that the premise of the film won't tolerate.
The constraint of that premise is why Kirsten Dunst swings from confection to wrecking ball in a few implausible filmed minutes--she ruins her world on her wedding night, quickly devolving from picture-perfect high society bride to washed-out bedhead gloomy girl who can't be bothered to wear makeup or flattering clothes. The first suggestion of the film is that she's right to have imploded--when the end is undeniable, that fact crowds out any fiction, regardless of motive.
But the second suggestion of Melancholia matters more, I think, though it arrives only in the last minutes of the film.
When the total resignation of Dunst's Justine has overtaken her sister Clare (and yes, look at those names again, and consider their blood ties), the spell of facts and hopelessness is broken by the fear of Clare's little boy, and the love both women have for him. The three join together to create one last fiction--one that gives them something to do in the final hours. It brings them together across generational, intellectual, and spiritual divides, in spite of their physical circumstances. The child may be assuaged by an illusion of hope, but the women, who have been at odds for the entire film, come to the same place in the end: it was bad fiction (not fiction itself) that led them astray. Their final act of imagination is a meaningful one, because the two women (for once) conjure it for all the right reasons. And the film ends beautifully and tragically, with the idea that fiction matters most when reality holds all the cards. What Clare and Justine give themselves and the child isn't denial, transcendence or control, but a way of putting themselves in accord with the end. Imagination brings them peace.
If you're a fictionhead, the way this film gets where it wants to go demands repeat viewings. Get Melancholia.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2015
This is a qualified 5 - if I could give it 10 for my own tastes, I would. That said, for some, buyer beware. And I guess I'm going to end up addressing my review to people who might rate this movie low because I think you can get more out of it than 1-3 stars when you watch it.
If you like Hollywood films and hate art films, obviously, stay away. If you like living in certainty, stay away. But before you do, let me make a small suggestion.
Sometimes being unsettled is good. Sometimes feeling bad is good - we should be grateful as human beings to feel depth of emotion - be it happiness OR melancholy.
Sometimes you should take a walk. Take a walk when the weather is great. But get out there and take a walk in a blizzard, on a really hot day, or in the rain... or on a foggy night, put on headphones, go out for a walk at 1am and listen to old spooky blues records.
The whole POINT of going for a walk instead of staying in your living room where you have everything just the way you like it IS that it is unsettling.
The whole, "ships are safest in harbor, BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT SHIPS ARE FOR" and neither are you.
So that said, what are you buying into with Melancholia? You aren't getting entertainment, you're getting art.
I don't think it is about depression per se. It isn't about "gee, these people are depressed and what should they do about it."
I got the distinct impression that Kirsten Dunst's character has some sort of foresight. Not specific knowledge but she feels intrinsically that something is going to go wrong, thus the dumping of the great advertising job that she is brilliant at, the groom, etc. It turns out she isn't feeling depressed, she's feeling ACCURATELY.
Which begs the question is depression or melancholy ALWAYS a dysfunction or is it healthy when it is an accurate response to what is going on? Is cheerfulness, teamwork, ambition, confidence, sick in the wrong context? This isn't a movie about "oh gee they're DEPRESSED" which I see in quite a few 5 star reviews as well as 1 stars. Dunst makes the right decisions about her life, drops the career, etc because something horrible is coming and can feel that in light of that, it doesn't mean all that much to her - that's symbolically valid within the movie with the rogue planet coming, but it's valid in actual real life.
The fact is, something horrible is going to happen to you.
It is coming for you as you read this, waiting somewhere in your future.
Certainly death, the deaths of those you love, absolutely, but not just death. It's very likely you'll have your heart broken, lose a good friendship, disappoint yourself, act like a jerk in a way you can never take back, experience the whole gamut of suffering, pain, for yourself and those you love - you will lose things or have horrible things happen or do bad things THAT CAN NEVER BE UNDONE.
Ouch, right? But so, so very true.
Now, if you want to stay in your living room with everything just so, if walking in the fog at 1am listening to blues records or in the rain, lifting your face to feel it instead of rushing inside sounds insane to you, you are missing out. And besides, your living room won't ultimately save you.
What do you do when depression is PERFECTLY JUSTIFIED, the most sane thing? Do you withdraw? Do you rush out to seek other people? But what if other people can't help? How do you, how do others, meet what is most definitely coming? Sorry but this too is part of the human experience. You will be more alive, more human, more compassionate to other humans, with that awareness - less human, less alive without.
It's one of those roadtrip/cocktail party questions - what is art? I'll tell you my definition. When you sleep, you dream and process the events of your life symbolically. People kept awake to long start too go kind of batty, can't function well - even if you let them sleep but interrupt only when they start dreaming. Dreaming is the unconscious processing of being alive - of life's experience. You have to do it or you'll literally lose your mind.
Art is kind of the same way - it's the semi-conscious processing of human experience of life. Dreaming and art fulfill kind of the same functions - in the months following WW2, in totally bombed-out Germany, while Berlin was still essentially rubble, what did the people there do in the aftermath, as soon as they had their bare, basic needs met? Put on plays. Put little orchestras together and play music. In the RUBBLE. Because they needed to. I suspect we're all a little crazy in this day and age because we instinctively reach for art and get entertainment handed to us instead - sleep instead of dreaming.
So anyway, the movie is beautiful. I was about to say "well, it isn't entertainment but it is art" but I remembered, in the 1800's there was a musical subgenre that specifically would be songs about tragically dead children - seriously that was it - people would show up to the concerts in droves, weep, it'd be very cathartic. If THAT was entertainment, I suppose Melancholia is entertainment - depressing films, horror films that ACTUALLY horrify as opposed to make you jump due to a loud sudden noise, are cathartic and entertaining in their own right. Idunno, maybe we in America have a religion that trumps all others and that religion is COMFORT. That makes me feel uncomfortable, which is why I take walks in bad weather and at bad times and watched Melancholia - to take me out of my comfort zone just a little bit.
And ah... have some compassion for the people you run into in your life that aren't all sparky and upbeat - psychological studies prove that slightly depressed people perceive reality more accurately than upbeat people. Maybe they're onto something. Non-melancholy is overrated :)
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
Let me preface my review by quickly stating that this is a Lars von Trier film. If you know what that means, you don't need to read any reviews or previews to know what you're getting yourself into. You either love or you hate the man's style. If you don't, well, you end up like the people who are giving this a 1-star review because they came in expecting something completely different. All reviews, professional and amateur alike, are biased in regards to his films: hell, even Roger Ebert completely missed the point of Antichrist because his judgement on it was clouded. But heed this - if you want to see Kirsten Dunst naked, you came to the right place. However, if you don't want to see over 2 hours of a slow-paced crescendo of depression and madness, you probably wanna skip it.
This movie is about that: depression. Reactions to heartbreaking events, overwhelming guilt and despair, impending doom, how we handle stress, deal with trivial things in the midst of chaos, things like that. It's the feel-bad hit the winter and everything about it screams masterpiece but it's not for everyone. Mind you, it's nowhere near as graphic as Antichrist or, in my opinion, as saddening as Dancer in the Dark but it's still a downer if you're not in the mood to sit down and really watch a film about the physical/metaphorical end of the world. Hopefully you are, though, because it's one of the best movies I've seen in recent memory. The acting for the most part is spot on (save for Alexander Skarsgård who seems like he's reading his lines from off-screen), the cinematography is really beautiful, and the subtle sound design feels haunting throughout. For a movie that takes its time, you never feel like it's drudging, which is remarkable since the first half of the movie plays a LOT like Festen, a dogme 95 staple, which DID feel that way a lot of the time to me. If you're on the fence about this movie, gauge it against the other art-house movies you've seen or let the fact that it's bound to grab award noms like crazy sway your decision but, please, don't expect a traditional climax and feel ripped off when you didn't get your slow motion explosions or Sigur Ros music on the last freeze frame. Lars von Trier isn't that director.