Monday, December 5, 2011
Melancholia - by Lars von Trier
I saw Melancholia at the Naro Film Forum in Norfolk this past Sunday morning, and it was quite a visual and emotional event. Lars von Trier, for those of you who don't know, is one of these afflicted, Dostoevsky-type artistic geniuses who has quite a penchant for portraying the dark side of human experience, not in the pornographic sense of merely sensationalizing it, but in the analytical sense of exploring it. Suffering from depression himself at times, in Melancholia, which is a more classic term for severe depression, he hurls us into a face to face confrontation, through the wonders of hand held photography up close, with the main protagonist, Justine, with her many moods and failings, and who becomes all but dysfunctional as the story unwinds. But this is not merely her story, for Melancholia suddenly becomes a cosmic story involving the threatened destruction of the planet - melancholic annihilation writ large projected from her mind? or an actual reality within the movie's time and space construct? Microcosm and macrocosm of the suffering and apocalyptic visions and fantasies of all humanity at this point in time is what I see going on, and against this we can also discern the clash of dying Patriarchy versus knife-clenching Matriarchy in words, deeds, images and symbolism. Justine, played brilliantly by Kirsten Dunst, confides that deep roots pull at her feet constantly, a terrible burden that exhausts her and disrupts any attempts at normalcy. She is descending into the depths of the earth psychosomatically to find elemental Self, spending endless, even erotic hours in Nature, often on horseback with her sister, and ironically, as all begins to collapse around her, she becomes the strong character of the story.
Set at a huge mansion with vast acreage on the coastline of Sweden, the photography is stunning, even symphonic, although be forewarned that the hand-held style may make you sea-sick over time, so buy some Dramamine or whatever if need be. Her sister Claire, powerfully played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, the anti-heroine of von Trier's disturbing look at misogyny in Anti-Christ, is a poignant study in anxiety in her own right, with a prominent cast of male characters as well, mostly flawed in personality and jaded enough to underscore the symbolically collapsing world of Patriarchy that the story reveals, Kiefer Sutherland playing Justine's brother-in-law with neurotic flourish, John Hurt her somewhat decrepit father, plus Charlotte Rampling as her cynically negative mother.
A tour de force on several levels, both personal drama and collective drama set against a backdrop of pending world annihilation, if you are a von Trier fan do not miss this movie! It says much to our psyches and subconscious.