**** (out of four)
The stunningly beautiful, remarkably powerful film from writer-director Lars Von Trier bears plenty in common with “The Tree of Life,” if “Tree” were an extraordinary vision of flawed human behavior in the context of a fragile world. You know, rather than a repetitive rumination on how pretty trees are and how much kids are—thanks, Capt. Obvious—influenced by their parents.
As “Melancholia” opens, Von Trier presents gorgeous images of people like Justine (
Then, once we’re all in, uh, such a good mood, Von Trier jumps back to Justine’s wedding to Michael (Alexander Skarsgard), which gets off to a bad start (stretch limos just aren’t adept at navigating tight turns) and only gets worse as Justine’s
“Part Two” of the film focuses on Claire, who’s pretty freaked about the approaching planet, Melancholia, even though her husband (Kiefer Sutherland) assures her that the gigantic orb in the sky will pass by Earth.
Von Trier (“Antichrist”), who has battled depression himself, isn’t known for being a happy guy. “Melancholia” certainly isn’t a happy movie. Yet where “The Tree of Life” felt like a superficial examination of the universe, “Melancholia” boldly addresses the triviality of wealth and petty bickering while acknowledging the twinkling beauty of pure joy—even as it’s viewed against the impending doom of emotional freefall and worse.
Earlier this year “The Beaver” recognized the hopelessness of depression and the lack of easy answers to make things better. “Melancholia” does that film one better in depicting the misunderstanding about depression from the outside and the spectrum of power and weakness people can navigate every day.
Von Trier suggests that the world is full of things, people and behavior that we don’t understand. When everything goes black and we look back on the bright spots and the misery, how will we answer this question: “Was it all worth it?”
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