Two Jews on Flim - By Joan Alperin Schwartz: When 'Melancholia' directed by the always controversial, Lars Von Tier, opens there is a montage of impressionistic stills set to Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde.
Dead birds slowly rain down from the sky, while Kirsten Dunst, dressed in a long flowing white wedding gown, wearing a dazed expression on her face, runs through a lush dark forest. A horse silently falls to the ground as the opera reaches a crescendo. Then we cut to...
Somewhere in Outer Space, where we see Earth and a much larger planet, gradually moving closer and closer to one another. The planet is blue and its name is… 'Melancholia'.
This montage is breathtaking and it goes on for over eight minutes...and that is how this haunting, disturbing, stunningly beautiful film begins.
I guess you can tell? I absolutely loved this movie.
'Melancholia' is broken up into three acts. The first part is called 'Justine', (played brilliantly by Kirsten Dunst). Justine, a rising advertising executive, has just married Michael (Alexander Skarsgard). When we meet them, they are being chauffeured to their wedding reception in a stretch limo and they are over two hours late.
Their tardiness really pisses off Justine's sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her scientist hubby, John (Kiefer Sutherland). You can't really blame them. After all, they are the ones throwing this super expensive, super lavish, super pretentious, party for the newly married couple.
When Justine and Alexander finally arrive at Claire and John's mega mansion in the woods, Claire begs her sister not to screw this up. And to Justine's defense, she tries really tries hard not to. But Justine is a woman incapable of being happy. It's as if happiness is not in her genetic makeup. Okay, the girl is depressed...very, very depressed.
Justine moves around the wedding reception, looking as if this is the last place she wants to be. We meet her cantankerous mother, Charlotte Rampling, her sad, depressed father. John Hurt and her super sleazy boss and brand new father-in-law, Stellan Skarsgard. As the evening wears on, Justine's behavior becomes more and more erratic. Her fears and anxieties grow stronger and she slowly starts to self-destruct.
The second act of the film is from Claire's POV. She's the level-headed sister...A loving wife and doting mother to her young son....Claire assures Justine (who's now practically catatonic) that Melancholia won't collide with Earth...that the big, blue planet will simply pass us by and then go on its merry way.
And finally, in the end, it's the unbalanced Justine, not Claire, who remains calm, as 'Melancholia' moves closer and closer to Earth.
Kirsten Dunst won the Best Actress award at this year's Cannes Film Festival and she completely deserves it. Her performance is as mesmerizing as this film.
'Melancholia' is definitely one of those movies that people will either love or hate and it is definitely one of those movies that people will be affected by... for good or for bad.
So was John, but not exactly in the same way. Once again the 'Two Jews on Film' were far apart on their bagel rating. I gave 'Melancholia' five bagels out of five. To see how many bagels John gave check out our video.
'Melancholia' opens in theaters, Friday November 11, 2011. Run don't walk to see it.