Battling depression at the end of the world

December 15, 2011

RATING: 5 of 5 stars –Photo coursesy of Touchstone Pictures

News Editor

The end of the world never looked so beautiful.


In the opening 10 minutes of Lars Von Trier’s entrancing and moving new movie, “Melancholia,” we get short glimpses of the last few moments of Earth’s existence.


Images go back and forth between external shots of the Earth on its crash course with a newly discovered planet, Melancholia, and then with people on Earth trying to seek shelter or run away from the inevitable.


These 10 minutes may be some of the best filmmaking that I have seen in years.


Each shot is done in slow motion, with dark and gloomy, yet equally rich and vibrant colors that saturate every frame.


The soundtrack, using Wagner’s Prelude to “Tristan and Isolde,” succeeds in making the end of the world have an eerily romantic quality.


These moments of chaos are how the movie will begin and also how it will end.


“Melancholia” is centered around Justine (played brilliantly by Kirsten Dunst), a new bride on the night of her wedding.


The reception is held at her extremely wealthy brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) and sister Claire’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sprawling estate, which looks like a strange mixture between an English manor and a golf course.


While Justine should be ecstatic, and seems to be so at the beginning of the night, she descends into what we eventually learn has been a long-time battle with depression.


Justine ruins her night, and not being able to find any form of happiness, doesn’t even have the energy to force a smile.


The thought of her wedding debilitates her to where at one point she makes the statement in a moment of desperation, “I feel like I can’t walk normally anymore.”


It is at these points that we feel Justine’s predicament with intensity as she tries to make sense of a world in which her depression will not let her become a part of.


All this is further compounded by the fact that a new planet has appeared in the sky and appears to be headed straight toward Earth.


“Melancholia” is a rapturous event from beginning to end.


Von Trier draws you into this world that is on the fringe of non-existence, but it is Dunst who should receive any honor bestowed upon her this award season.


It is hard to believe this is the same actress who played Spiderman’s love interest and a snarky cheerleader in “Bring it On.”


While the disaster movie could cheapen the film, which is only background to what is actually happening.


The core of the film lies with Justin and Claire whose interactions provide some of the most compassionate and intimate moments in the movie.


Claire’s insistence that Justine must find happiness is transitioned with Justine’s view that the world is for the most part an unhappy place and full of evil. As the Earth and Melancholia move closer to collision, we see the two sisters’ roles start to reverse.


Justine is fine with letting go of her existence, while Claire clings to it, not being able to see beyond what she thinks is her own immortality in anticipation of the crash. Through “Melancholia” we see the horrors of depression and its scalding presence on the psyche and how it can make a hell out of Earth.


“Melancholia” also shows a slight upside of depression: the depressed mind can help those in need whenever those that feel invincible realize their mortality.


“Melancholia” is playing on in demand on both Amazon.com and iTunes, and will be showing at the Robinson Film Center in Shreveport starting December 16.


Email comments to gpb009@latech.edu


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