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Cult Classics: Melancholia (2011)


By Jordan Smith.

Far more tame than Antichrist, Melancholia is the second film in Lars Von Trier’s “Depression Trilogy” and stars Kirsten Dunst in the lead role. The film is once again written by Trier and contains his unique style of film making. The narrative is again split into multiple parts/chapters and contains a long opening sequence using shot after shot of beautiful imagery, in very, very slow motion.

The story revolves around a depressed woman and her family as the end of the world approaches. The film was inspired by one of Trier’s depressive episodes were he gained the insight that people who are depressed can remain calm in very stressful situations.

Although the style of the film is almost identical to Antichrist, this time the cinematography is handled by Manuel Alberto Claro and he does a pretty fantastic job. The opening sequence is contains some of the most incredible and beautiful shots I’ve ever seen in a film.

This, unfortunately, is one of the films few redeeming features. I’ve watched this film twice now and although I can respect it and see how stunning it looks, this film has bored me to tears twice now. Seriously, up until the climax, this film is so dull! Usually I would like a film like this, which explores a person’s psyche through their depression. There’s something that is just incredibly boring about the story. The woman suffers from depression, though no reason is ever given as to why and I can only surmise that there is no reason.

There’s nothing wrong with the actors, they’re all fantastic and their performances are great and the film has a pretty cool cast. John Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, Stellan Skarsgard, Udo Kier and Charlotte Gainsbourg (from Antichrist) to name but a few. John Hurt’s character, Dexter, is the father of Dunst’s lead character in the film and he is very much a welcome addition because he’s the only character with any sort of charisma in the film. The rest are dull or depressing for the most part.

Melancholia is a beautiful film. Even outside of the opening and ending sequences, there are some really fantastic shots. These aren’t enough to sustain my interest though and unless you’re really invested in the lead character, Justine, you’ll probably be bored out of your mind. The film is as stylistic and as beautifully shot as Antichrist and it’s much less offensive. The film does leave an impression; I was so impressed with the opening sequence alone that I looked up other works by Trier back when I first watched this film in 2012. But it’s not enough. I find this film to be a little hollow with the screenplay. It’s about a depressed woman and how depressed people have a certain insight and calmness about them that other people do not necessarily possess. That’s it though. You can’t have a 136 minute film based on that! Well, you can, but I found it incredibly boring.

There’s not really much more I can say about Melancholia. There’s not much to say because there’s not too much to Melancholia. Unless I’m missing something then someone please tell me. Beautifully shot and the actors do the best they can with a screenplay that doesn’t really give them all that much to do until the final act. Final word on Melancholia; as beautiful as it is boring. I’d recommend skipping this after you watch the opening sequence.

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