and the Infinite Sadness : MELANCHOLIA
Melancholia is probably one of the most gorgeously rendered movies since Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - indeed, the film's prologue of slow motion scenes and invasive heavenly bodies scored to Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde will bring to mind the imagery and beauty of Kubrick's masterpiece. All in all, the ghost of the late director seems to hang heavy over Lars von Trier's latest film.
Breathtaking, heartbreaking, and sometimes terribly mundane, Melancholia is a rarity. On the surface it's the tale of two sisters coping with varying degrees of depression during an upcoming event that might herald the end of the world. Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is a newlywed suffering from more than a case of cold feet, while Clarie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is on edge due to caring for her frail sibling as well as the worry brought on by an approaching planet that may very well be on a collision course with Earth. On the other, it's a deep meditation on existential angst, paranoia, the meaninglessness of life, and fear of the unknown.
The film opens as Justine and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are made late to their wedding reception because their chauffeur can not maneuver the gargantuan limousine he's driving up the winding, gravel road to the couple's reception that is being held at Justine's sister and her husband's palatial estate. This scene is probably one of the only charming and light-hearted moments in the film. Once the duo make it to the elaborate reception, and meet the odd-ball family members (of particular note is Charlotte Rampling who plays Justine's shrew of a mother), we spend the next hour watching the bride go from blushing to morose and soon realize that she has some kind of major mental health issues.
The second part of the film concentrates more on the impending event as we discover that Claire's husband (Kiefer Sutherland) is something of an astronomy buff who is constantly trying to reassure his wife that there is nothing to be worried about.
Frankly, to sit back and try to explain any more of this exceptional piece of art, would be a fool's game, Melancholia must be experienced to be appreciated. That said, this is not the kind of film one can watch with distractions, it is slow and deliberate and was made for an audience who want more than cheap thrills and CGI. If that sounds like you, give yourself over to Melancholia, in spite of everything, I think you will be glad that you did.