Movie Review: Melancholia

Last week I spent some time scratching my head over the On Demand practice of releasing movies for viewing on or near the date that they would be opening in theatres. Wouldn't this lessen the demand for big screen releases? Or would it whet the appetite of film lovers around the world, igniting a firestorm and creating a buzz for a smaller picture that might not have received such attention? Whatever the case, I suspended my disbelief and hit the On Demand button to watch Lars Von Trier's Melancholia, a disaster movie that packs as much wallop emotionally as it does physically.

It's the story of Justine, a young bride in the beginning stages of a crippling depression, a burden so heavy that she can barely put one foot in front of the other to drag herself from place to place. Her lucky groom Michael, played with simple warmth by Alexander Skarsgard (meow) is as befuddled as he is misguided. Thinking that he and Justine can muddle through this episode with some encouraging words and a wedding at a grandiose castle (owned by Justine's sister Claire and her husband John), his increasing desperation to keep a hold of his sinking wife during the nuptials is hard to watch.

On her way through the castle doors, Justine turns and spots an unusual star in the sky and asks her amateur astronomer brother-in-law John (played by the always fun to watch Kiefer Sutherland) what it is. He misidentifies it as a star in a well known constellation before becoming engrossed in the more pressing issues of the evening which include watching the night's festivities implode along with Justine's just hours old marriage.

Boy, that wedding sucked.

Eventually we learn that star wasn't what it appeared to be and in fact is a rogue planet on a collision course with Earth. There is some debate among scientists as to what will actually happen, with most concurring that there will be a flyby that will give Earthlings a hair raising but spectacular show with no direct hit.

We watch as Justine comes to stay with Claire (a stunning Charlotte Gainsbourg), John, and their young son at their secluded estate and we realize that there is no one better equipped to deal with the impending end of the world than the horrifically depressed.

I won't give you the ending because this is one of those films that kind of has to be seen to be believed. It's visually stunning and emotionally rich, so make sure to carve out some time to take it in. It's tense from the opening shot to the ending credits. Kirsten Dunst does much of the heavy lifting here and she is spectacular but the amazing Charlotte Gainsbourg takes us on the most emotionally harrowing ride of the entire show as we watch her portrayal of Claire move from strong capable caretaker to unhinged desperate anxiety ridden madwoman and finally to calm acceptance.

Yes, Lars Von Trier is a bit of a lunatic, showcased in full at this years Cannes Film Festival but don't let that stop you from watching this film. It would be your loss.

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