Posts Tagged ‘MELANCHOLIA’


1134643_Melancholia_Image__Kirsten_DunstNear the end of “Melancholia,” the latest film from professional crank Lars Von Trier, his star Kristen Dunst wonders aloud if anyone would grieve if the world was gone. It’s the great existential question in a film which may be the most audience friendly study of depression ever.

Von Trier breaks the film into three portions. A montage of strange slow motion images and soaring symphonic music serves as a prologue. In its final image Von Trier lets us known how the story will end, establishing a tension that runs through every frame of the film.

Part One starts off happily enough with a young couple, Justine (Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard), on the way to an opulent wedding reception at the home of (Charlotte Gainsbourg), Justine’s sister. Soon, however, it becomes apparent that all is not right. Justine’s inability to feel happiness and her family’s recriminations at the reception ruin the day.

Part Two shifts the focus to Claire. She is obsessed with the news that a newly discovered planet, Melancholia, may be making a bee-line to planet Earth. In this half Justine takes a more passive role as Von Trier explores Claire’s fixation.

I’ve kept the synopsis sketchy because the plot details are less important than the sense of gloom Von Trier builds slowly over the course of the movie’s 135 minute running time. From the haunting images of the prologue to Dunst’s gravely restrained performance the film creates slow grind suspense. It’s a disaster movie in which the end-of-the-world theatrics are secondary to the disastrous relationships on display.

Dunst has rarely been better, and Von Trier’s muse, Charlotte Gainsbourg, is a coiled spring of emotion, and even if they aren’t believable as sisters—they look and sound nothing alike—the strained relationship between them feels real.

They are the film’s centerpieces, and the best used of all the actors, although Udo Kier as a testy wedding planner steals a scene or two.

“Melancholia” is, undoubtedly, Von Trier’s attempt to visualize his very public struggle with depression. It’s a feel bad movie, heavy with symbolism—Justine literally bathing in the light of the oncoming destruction for example—and in no hurry to explain itself, but in its own claustrophobic, closed-down way is a naturalistic and compelling look at people in distress.


melancholia-6The apple, as they say, doesn’t fall far from the tree. Not only has Kiefer Sutherland followed the famous footsteps of his parents, Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas, into the acting biz but he seems to have also inherited some of the fire of his grandfather.

When I compliment Sutherland on his glasses, a pair of retro-looking heavy frames, his passion flares.

“In the 30’s Roosevelt made a deal between Moscot and the federal government,” he says. “Anybody who needed glasses during the great depression got these glasses for free. They made millions of them. So anyone who says there was never a National Healthcare in the States is a liar.  That was the first national healthcare program where they provided glasses for free for the entire country.”

Echoes of his grandfather, Tommy Douglas the father of Canadian health care, hang in the air.

He’s equally passionate when he speaks of his admiration for his latest director, Lars Von Trier, the controversial filmmaker behind Melancholia.

“I have a great affection for Lars,” he says. “I’ve done eighty some odd films. I’ve done one hundred and ninety eight episodes of 24, which is the equivalent of another 100 movies and this was the most unique experience I’ve had as an actor.”

Von Trier, the outspoken Danish director broke down the way his actors were used to working, doing away with lengthy rehearsals and traditional blocking.

Sutherland explains how, on his first day of shooting, Von Trier threw him and co-star into a complicated scene.  “He walks Charlotte Gainsbourg and I to a door. He says, ‘OK this is the room. I want you to play this scene on the other side of this door. We’re all set and ready to go, and you just go do it. ‘

When Sutherland objected Von trier told him to, “Stop talking.”

“We went and did the scene and he deconstructed everything I’ve learned as a technical actor,” he says. “John Hurt has my favorite line in the entire movie. He’s dancing and I’m walking with all the drinks for the table. As I walk by he says, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing!’ We all felt like that. I don’t know what I’m doing either! And that’s exactly how Lars wanted it. That was the spirit of it.

“It’s something that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.”