Sunday, March 17, 2013
The film is divided into two parts. The first, titled "Justine," concerns itself with the wedding celebration of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) and the reception being held at the estate of her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Claire's husband John (Kiefer Sutherland), who have paid for the wedding. Despite trying to put on a happy face, Justine is severely depressed to the point that both the ceremonies of the day and her relationships with the guests - her divorced parents, sour mother Gaby (Charlotte Rampling) and carefree father Dexter (John Hurt), and boss Jack (Stellan Skarsgard) - are irreparably damaged. Part two, "Claire," jumps ahead to where Justine's misery has left her nearly catatonic. Claire tries to care for her, but she grows despondent as a planet called "Melancholia" hurtles toward earth, threatening the annihilation of all life.
Many films that depict depression do so in a superficial manner (i.e. eating ice cream while watching a romantic movie) that is easily solvable (i.e. finding that special someone by the end). Here, it's gut-wrenching and paralyzing. Pains are taken to illustrate everything Justine is grateful for, including a wealthy family and a loving, caring husband, but her misery is a merciless chasm, a draining and debilitating force that offers no respite and only grows in power, not unlike a certain galactic phenomena threatening the world.
Melancholia is more than two hours long, and while it is absorbing and challenging, it is not entertaining. It's painful, awkward, and forceful and revels in harsh truths. It's not always subtle in tone or meaning, but then again, a slap to the face usually isn't.