Lars moments on Earth
WHY all the drama over the simple act of getting married? It’s hardly the end of the world, is it? Well, as a matter of fact, in this particular case, it is.
In a beautiful and baffling mood piece from controversial Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, a depressed young woman staring down complete oblivion.
In the first half of the picture, Justine’s marriage is over on the very evening it begins.
In the second half, she waits stoically with her sister Claire ( Charlotte Gainsbourg), and other family and friends for the Earth to be completely destroyed.
These two distinct ‘‘ chapters’’ of Melancholia are foreshadowed by an incredible opening prologue that will stand as one of the great virtuoso screen sequences of 2011.
To the strains of Wagner’s famously ominous Tristan and Isolde ( believe me, you’ll recognise it as soon as you hear the first bars), von Trier summons forth a grandiose, yet confrontingly direct metaphor for the human condition.
It is the final few minutes of existence for all mankind. There is nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. Some are frozen in fear. Others are frozen with acceptance that everything is over.
Von Trier’s camera glides slowly across this intimidating vista. It is as if we are being shown through some kind of macabre diorama in an abandoned museum.
And then, two worlds literally collide. Our puny planet is pitted like an olive. And then, the screen fades to black.
Remember, this is just the start of Melancholia.
Some viewers who witness this powerfully poignant 10- minute last goodbye will argue it communicates everything von Trier has to say with his picture. And they will be 100 per cent right.
Nevertheless, even if the two hours that follow sometimes belabor the point, Melancholia remains a totally unique cinematic experience.
Anyone who believes there is still untapped potential to be found in the medium of cinema will relish the challenge put to them here.
Others will find the whole exercise to be a complete and utter bore. And they will be 100 per cent right as well.
I’ll freely admit some stretches of the film – particularly those staged at Justine’s miserable wedding at a posh country club – could hold the key to an all- new cure for insomnia.
However, there is no chance of completely nodding off in Melancholia due to Dunst’s incredibly jolting portrayal of Justine.
Her performance is a wonder to behold: a complex mix of elation, deflation and eerie calm.