Screening Room – MELANCHOLIA

(KTSF by Sean Au)
Bay Area movie goers are pretty much spoiled when it comes to movie choices as compared to many other American cities where smaller movies could never find theatres to screen. Movies these days are available on-demand only a few months after their theatrical release dates to combat piracy and to ride on the publicity efforts when the movie first opens. MELANCHOLIA takes this one step further with the movie appearing on-demand almost a full month before it opens in theatres. This is pretty much a trend that we will see more of in the future.

Having said that, MELANCHOLIA should be viewed on the big screen if possible for its cinematic excellence.

As the sumptuous wedding party of young bride Justine (Kirsten Dunst) turns into a fiasco, her smile gradually gives way to the depression that is bursting from within, not helped by her mother’s cynicism of marriages, her bosses constant pressure on her to come out with the latest advertising slogan, her sister’s pursuit of perfection organizing the wedding, and even the affection from the groom.

All the while, the planet Melancholia is on a collision path with Earth which most likely will bring about the final days of humankind.

The first half of the film has our full attention on how depression consumes the bride through the duration of the wedding, leading Justine to act in ways that is hard for most people to understand. We probably would not have tolerated the behavior of the bride under normal circumstances.

The second half of the film shifts our focus on the other sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg.) We see how a seemingly normal person falls into panic mode when confronted with an imminent end. Comparatively, we see the chronically depressed Justine coming to terms with how her life is ending. We see her gradually gaining peace.

Depression is a common theme of Danish director Lars Von Trier. He had indicated that MELANCHOLIA is a reflection of the depression that he had gone through even while making his most recent movies. This movie excels in bringing about a cinematic vision of depression centered around the classical music masterpieces of Wagner. Many images of the movie will leave a deep impression in our minds, making it clearer for us to have a better understanding of depression.

Kirsten Dunst, long underrated perhaps of her beauty, helps to give a face and voice to the chronically depressed. We feel the pain through her eyes and her body. Dunst could not have been more deserving of the Best Actress prize she won at the Cannes Film Festival this summer.

While MELANCHOLIA may seem like a movie hard to embrace at first glance, this effort to help us peel away a layer of mystery about depression, is perhaps Von Trier’s gift to help us better understand humanity, even just a little bit.

Either in the theatres or the comfort of your homes, MELANCHOLIA is not to be missed.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Video courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

(Copyright 2011 KTSF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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