Movie Review: Melancholia

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On December 21, 2012, it’s been widely depicted that the Mayans predicted the end of the world.  Whether you believe it or not is debatable, but it leaves one burning question that probably everyone has thought of at one point- what would you do if the world is going to end?

Well, Lars von Trier’s movie, Melancholia, proposes just that.  While the beginning of the movie focuses on the wedding of Justine and Michael, you don’t get the real plot of the movie until about halfway, when a newly discovered rogue planet known as Melancholia has a chance to hit the Earth.

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As mentioned before, the movie begins on a joyous occasion between Justine and Michael, and their struggles to get to their wedding reception.  Being two hours late, they get the wrath from Justine’s sister, Claire, who had helped set up the entire wedding and its ceremony.  The mood continues to get worse, as Justine and Claire’s mother publicly reveals her disregard for marriage, and that Justine and her husband should enjoy marriage “while it lasts”.  Obviously shaken from her mother’s outburst, Justine becomes increasingly distant and it’s visible to everyone, including Michael and Claire.

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The second half of the movie focuses on Justine’s older sister, Claire, her husband John, and their son Leo.  Justine comes to visit to battle her crippling depression, and seems to feel better after her sister is taking care of her.  However, Claire has her own worries about the rogue planet, Melancholia, which her husband has been studying.  Being an astronomer, John is well informed of it, and constantly assures Claire that the planet will miss Earth, as it already has missed Mercury and Venus, as his colleagues predicted it would.

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At first glance, I had no clue what the movie was about.  The first eight minutes was extremely weird and hard to follow, and then it introduces Justine and Michael.  It’s almost like they didn’t even need the opening segment, because it has nothing to do with the actual plot of the story- it is just gorgeous filler.  It’s probably the main issue I had with the movie- the opening sequence is unnecessary, and overall the movie focuses on unnecessary details, like the wedding reception.  It almost leads the audience into thinking they’re watching a relationship bonding movie, but later they get a scientific proposal about the world possibly ending.  It makes the movie really hard to market, therefore difficult to find an audience.  The movie did get critical acclaim, and deservedly so after watching it, but it’s still flawed.

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Despite the issues, Melancholia is a very raw, emotional movie.  Lars von Trier, the director, is definitely known for pushing the audience over the edge- he directed one of my favorite movies, Dancer in the Dark, starring Bjork.  I highly recommend it if you get the chance to see it.  This movie is directed extremely well, and the choice in music is appropriate and excellent.  His finest moment is the cast- Kirsten Dunst is incredible as broken Justine, Charlotte Gainsbourg (one of my favorite actresses) as her sister Claire, Kiefer Sutherland as John, and Alexander Skarsgard as Justine’s new husband Michael.

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Would I recommend this movie?  Absolutely, but please feel free to skip the first eight minutes.  There’s really no reason for it to be there, and you’re not missing anything by doing so.  After watching it, or maybe even during the film, you’ll wonder, ‘What would I do if I was in their situation’.  For me, I’d just take an “endless” road trip and probably steal gas to continue, because hey.. the world would end anyway.  For the record, from someone who did study lightly on Mesoamerican art and culture, I don’t think the world’s going to end.  The Mayans were smart, but they also had incredibly insane ideas and traditions (like cutting their tongues or genitalia to please the gods for a fruitful harvest) that I don’t think they qualify as reliable.

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