Nov 18

“Melancholia”: A Film Headed to a Planet Near You

Naturally, the movie title catches my eye: Melancholia. Sadness. I’ve seen a lot of that as a therapist. Also, of course, as a human being.

It’s a new film. As of today, in limited release.

Oh. It’s sci-fi about the world ending. Not my bag, I think. And, no wonder there’s melancholia.

I’m still curious, though. On the official website:

In this beautiful movie about the end of the world, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland). Despite Claire’s best efforts, the wedding is a fiasco, with family tensions mounting and relationships fraying. Meanwhile, a planet called Melancholia is heading directly towards Earth… MELANCHOLIA is a psychological disaster film from director Lars von Trier.

Interesting, and now certainly more intriguing. I mean, it’s a “beautiful” world-ending, not your typically envisioned ugly one.

I find out that Dunst’s character Justine is severely depressed. (Melancholia–it’s not just an Earth-colliding planet.) Richard Rushfield, writing for The Daily Beast, calls her, in fact, “the saddest bride in history.” Not only that, Dunst gives “the performance of a lifetime.”

So, a sad person, well-acted, in a beautiful film. What a catharsis this could be for a shrink who sometimes needs to feel and express emotions that build up with seemingly nowhere to go, occupational-hazard-wise.

I’m browsing The Huffington Post and find that E. Nina Rothe, a writer and “global culture explorer,” got to preview the film in New York before the tenth anniversary of 9/11. She states: “As the film ended, I…uncontrollably wept the deepest tears I have been able to shed since the horrific events of one crisp, tragic morning 10 years ago. For that, I silently thanked the genius of von Trier, for having the vision to create a film that would at once show our fragility on earth but also exalt the power of humanity, while feeding our fears of alienation and framing it all in his exquisite shots and painting-like images.”

Oh my god, I could cry already.

Can all the rest of the reviews be this good?

Many indeed are. But some are downright terrible. Rex Reed, The Observer, for instance: “…(T)he critics who fill the quote ads for this dirge with words like ‘masterpiece’ keep me manic with mirth. Wander into this idiocy and by the time it’s over, you’ll know the meaning of ‘melancholia’ yourself.”

Or “To my mind, Melancholia is both absorbing and absurd.”

Or Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter:

A brooding cross between The Celebration (Festen) and Armageddon drenched in the tragic romanticism of Richard Wagner, this contemplation of the planet’s demise predictably provides not an ounce of comfort or redemption, nor does it offer characters or ideas with which to meaningfully engage, just ample opportunity to wallow in some rapturous images, glorious music and a foul mood.

Guess you’ll have to see for yourself.