Review of Melancholia (Lars Von Trier, 2011) ☆
By Margaret L. Bates
School of Media Studies, The New School for Public Engagement
Melancholia, seemingly about a troubled bride who screws up the wedding by screwing some guy other than the groom, is a gorgeous film that makes you melancholic.
It’s really an apocalyptic movie about something the Occupy Wall Streeters have noted: there’s a big income disparity and the rich are enjoying their bread and circuses in the face of doom. The film is set on a lavish estate that appears also to be used for commercial purposes, although, (of course) only the 1% could afford to go there.
The world is going to hell in a flower girl’s basket and no one but the bride seems to notice. A planet, giving the film its title, is headed straight for earth. All the petty arguments among the family and all the smugness about the advertising industry, in which the bride & her boss toil, are overshadowed by the impending planetary collision. The bride’s boss, the big advertising executive, tells her at the wedding reception that she has been promoted and has a looming deadline. Even though he thinks this is the height of importance, it really is a “dead line” (emphasis on the first word).
Kirsten Dunst plays the bride, Justine, who flits all over, upsets the guests, and confuses her husband. Her more rational, seemingly grounded sister, Clair (Charlotte Gainsbourg), keeps trying to get her to act like a normal bride, e.g. happy, optimistic, etc. Their mother (Charlotte Rampling) is an all too familiar stereotype; she is nasty, giving the impression that she might be the cause of the bride’s malaise — it’s always the mother’s fault.