By Alexis Brownlie
Melancholia is a tale of loss, sadness, a woman trapped in her isolation, metaphorically climbing a mountain with every aspect of her life. If you want to climb every mountain with Justine (Kirsten Dunst), then bring all your despair and settle in for even more gloom with the 2011 film Melancholia. Directed by Lars von Trier, the movie follows Justine’s melancholia on her wedding day while, unknown to her and the wedding guests, the end of the world approaches.
From a gender-based perspective, this movie initially is typical. As we have seen through so much of history, it is women who are associated with melancholia. Knowing that the end of the world was coming and trying to face this, the women in the movie are masked from the truth by Justine’s sister, Claire’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) husband John (Kiefer Sutherland). He does not believe that the women can handle the truth (the impending end of the world he tracked as he watches the red star of Scorpio) so he withholds his knowledge and tries to prepare with only the men. John is the masculine prototype protector. Justine and Claire are unraveling as is the world.
The only bright light in this movie is Justine. Kirsten Dunst does an incredible performance pulling you along with her as she floats away. Despite her melancholia, she resists the decisions that men try to impose on her, ignoring her brother-in-law, taking a bath in the middle of her wedding to calling off her wedding, because she does not want his “apple orchard” ending. Although Justine’s inability to function is woven throughout the movie, there is a twist at the end when Justine becomes the family strength.
The scenery and music are sleepy and dreary. I had to fight to keep my eyelids open. The beginning of the movie gave away the end, so I sensed the direction the plot was going. I was starting to feel a bit melancholic myself. If this was von Trier’s intent, than he achieved it, but it is not my choice of entertainment.