The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Melancholia | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Melancholia

Directed by: Lars Von Trier
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgard
I've always had a healthy respect for nature but also a healthy distrust. Despite all our advances as a species we're always at it's mercy. This is the theme of Von Trier's brilliant new film, set in the days leading up to earth's collision with a planet named Melancholia. In the opening we see a limo driver struggle to negotiate a narrow winding country road, later Dunst aggressively beats a non-cooperative horse. When nature refuses to cooperate it usually spells trouble.

 The movie's first half takes place on Dunst's wedding night. We quickly learn that all is not well, Dunst seems to have some psychological issues and the rest of the guests are immensely unlikable in their own little ways. The night ends badly and we turn to the second half of the movie which focuses on Dunst's relationship with her sister Gainsbourg. Despite the reassurances of her arrogant husband Sutherland, Gainsbourg is terrified about the approaching planet. She tries to find comfort in Dunst but she is apathetic to the potential fate of the earth.
The genius of Von Trier is to present us with characters who we utterly despise at the beginning but end up rooting for at the climax. It's not an easy achievement, Kevin Smith tried it with "Red State" and it completely backfired on him.
Von Trier's last film "Antichrist" was one of the most poorly directed movies of the last few year, this is one of the best. There's a great storytelling device in the shape of a length of steel wire which you form in a circle around the outline of the approaching planet. By waiting a few minutes and repeating it tells you if the planet is getting closer or further away. It's a brilliant piece of visual storytelling, recalling vintage Spielberg in it's simplicity.
Charges of misogyny are often leveled at Von Trier and maybe he's taken note as the two leads here are probably his strongest female characters ever. While the male characters ultimately react with cowardice Dunst and Gainsbourg find the strength to confront the apocalypse.
Go check out this film before nature decides our time is up.