I have a deep admiration for Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier.I’ve often spoken highly of him, and more than once have referred to him as “The new Pasolini.”Much like Pasolini, he uses film not just as an art form, but a way to express his inner most feelings about the world around him.He gives the audience a view into his mindset, and the cold reality of someone struggling with mental illness.It seems his 2009 effort Antichrist has made just about every top 10 list of controversial films.It;s his 2011 release Melancholia however, That I consider some of his finest work.
At first glance this might seem like just another disaster movie.With a planet on a imminent collision course with Earth.During my first viewing all I could think of was the opening to Thundar:The Barbarian.You can imagine how thankful I was as the film progressed, That this was only the very tip of the iceberg.This isn’t a disaster film, this an in depth view into the inner human psyche while confronting complete and utter devastation.
The film follows the tale of two sisters, Justine and Clair.The film begins on Justine’s wedding day.Where everything seems to fall completely apart.We normally associate ones wedding day as a day of bliss and great joy.Seeing everything unravel for challenges our comfort zone of what we might expect to see in a film.Justine is an emotionally unstable woman, who in the span of a few short hours, loses her husband,job and alienates herself from her family.I feel this is Von Trier using a fictional character to showcase his own mental illness.And the pains and struggles someone with these issues face on a daily basis.
The other sister,Claire seems to be the “normal” person in society.The person who has wealth, a loving husband and a young child.She lives in luxury and charmed existence.The two sisters serve as complete polar opposites in this respect.
The film is told in two parts, the first being the study of Justine, the second a study of Claire.After the debacle of her wedding, Justine breaks down and Claire tries everything to console her and bring her back to normalcy.But much like someone suffering from any form of mental illness, Justine is unreceptive and continues to wallow in despair.All the while the run away planet named “Melancholia” continues it’s collision course with the earth.Despite Her husband and many scientists continuing to be adamant about it simply flying by the earth.The proper family lives in a state on complete denial and are convinced everything will be ok.Claire eventually succumbs to paranoia about the incoming collision, and lets fear’s grip embrace her,Justine on the other hand, begins to believe the earth is evil and must be eradicated, following a vision she encounters.
Eventually it is revealed that the collision is going to take place.Claire’s husband cannot deal with events unravelling and takes his own life.Which leads me to the central point that Von Trier is making in this film.In the face of catastrophic events, people with depression will remain surprisingly calm.No matter hoe horrific the events are that are unfolding.With the destruction of Earth immanent, the two sisters as well as Claire’s young son huddle together in a ram-shackled teepee.Despite the danger Claire comforts her child be telling him nothing is wrong and they will be safe.
In the films conclusion, The planet makes its final descent towards earth.As the three huddle together the 3 basic personality types are perfectly represented in the face of tragedy.Justine, calmly awaits for the end to come, almost looking at the events as a release.Claire, begins to tear up and breathe heavily, shaken with fear and trembling she finally accepts her fate.Her son, completely ignorant about what is unfolding simply goes along with what his parents have told him.Moments later Melancholia collides with the earth, and all is eradicated.
I feel this film can almost be considered Von Trier’s testimony of mental illness in day to day life.It can also be considered his tribute to Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.Who made artistic films that were deep and thought provoking, but never so thick and pretentious the average viewer wouldn’t understand them.Most importantly it serves as a monumental work of quite possibly one of the most influential and provocative filmmakers of the modern age.