Pur Autre Vie

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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Watched: Melancholia

Lars von Trier's Melancholia is available on Netflix streaming, and I watched it last night.  If you do not want to learn crucial plot points of Melancholia, then read no further.  (Though I must say, the most crucial plot point is dispensed with very early in the movie.)

The movie is a somewhat heavy-handed examination of the way we react to depressed people.  In the first segment of the movie, Justine's fancy wedding reception is ruined by her depression (in archaic medical terminology, "melancholia").  Her family and friends are mostly sympathetic, but they can't help being frustrated by her inability to cope.  At times the melancholia seems to recede, only to return with a vengeance.  There is a horrible inevitability about Justine's melancholia:  there is nothing she can do, it appears, to prevent its onslaught.  Justine is the victim of forces outside her control.

In the second segment of the movie, a planet (named Melancholia) is hurtling toward Earth.  The same people who criticized Justine's inability to cope with the feelings of dread and hopelessness caused by melancholia can't deal with the feelings of dread and hopelessness caused by Melancholia.  One character commits suicide, something we never see Justine attempt.  At one point Melancholia passes by Earth and seems to be receding, but it returns and destroys everything.  And there is a terrible inevitability about Melancholia's approach.  Humans are the victims of forces outside their control.


[image from Wikipedia]

This summary makes the movie sound dreadfully preachy and on-the-nose, but it honestly didn't feel that way.  The visuals are stunning and the musical score is perfect.  The simplicity of the "message" does not extend to its execution (and anyway, the movie is complex enough to support many readings, this just happens to be mine).  I think the setting is perfect, too:  a beautiful countryside estate (in England?), congruent with the traditional "romantic" view of depression.  Von Trier smashes this way of viewing depression by showing its ugliness and devastation.

It is a good example of how powerful a movie can be, how its immediacy can be used to draw the viewer in, to make the viewer feel something that is otherwise hard to grasp.  It is not a fun movie to watch, but it feels much more lifelike than most other movies you will see.


6 Comments:

Anonymous Will said...

This movie was great

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