Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Melancholia" Redux: They don't understand our love


Last night finally gave me the opportunity to come back around to "Melancholia" after reviewing it two months back. Yes, I was amongst those who saw it via laptop, so it was a diluted experience to say the least, but still one I embraced. However, it's nothing compared to viewing the film in its theatrical glory. A friend of mine who saw the film said he expected it to be a blend of "The Tree of Life", "Armageddon", and Lars von Trier's own "Antichrist", which is a pretty accurate depiction of it to another person. But in discussing it with the group I saw it with after the fact, I think they kind of missed the point of it.

Not any fault of them, as none of them are film majors and none of them really know what to think of films such as this. Even my fellow film majors had trouble grasping it, and when I told them it was a love story, they all just managed to laugh and joke about it. True, there's some fun to be found in poking fun at that fact, but I was 100% dead serious. The mistake I made a few months back was diagnosing it as a love triangle between two girls and a planet. Claire, in many ways, plays the honest minded foil of the main romance of "Melancholia".

The film starts out with "Justine" on her wedding day, which goes awry in part due to her parents bickering and her mother's cynicism. But the bigger cause of the marriage's insistent degradation is Justine's own distractions throughout the night. The red star of Antares catches her eye early on, and one wonders if it's just a fleeting moment of interest or if there's something more important about it. Her constant interest in this, along with a later "prediction" of the bean count, led so many people to diagnose her as psychic, which, of course, she's not at all. The bean count could've easily been received from the butler of the house. When she says that she knows things, it's just a simple fact of looking and seeing.

Back to the wedding, we see her pissing on the golf course, fooling around with a younger man on said golf course, and other strange behavior. She's disconnected from the party and from her husband, not because she doesn't like Michael, but because she is definitively broken from him. She thinks that marriage would have solved the loneliness she feels in the world, and with her surrounded by so many people who are there for her, it doesn't. She's not psychic, but even early on, she has an affinity towards this thing that she cannot see. After the party, she is all but lost; crippled and indecisive, while not feeling that any activity will help her.

Never once in the film is she insane, which is the easy way out for many a critic. If somebody does something you don't understand, they must be insane. In the second half of the film, we see everyone clamor for the arrival of Melancholia, except for Claire. She sees a destructive force in the planet's arrival. It's not until later at the insistence of John and the sight that Justine seems to be doing better because of this planet (Or at least has enough attraction towards Melancholia to strip down in front of it seductively late in the night), that Claire seems to relent and agree that it's a good thing.

And then it kills her husband, and Claire is back in panic mode, gathering her son Leo to head to the village. It's at this point when Justine says to Claire, "this has nothing to do with the village." And the more I revisit the film, the more I notice that Melancholia is not something that has any real affect on the world. It only has to do with this tight-knit family. Justine is accepting of "Melancholia" as something that makes her whole, while Claire is just frightened to no end. And then the planet finally levels to the characters, the planet, and almost the theater itself. The ending is loud, powerfully imposing, and the rumble of the destruction lasts long enough to leave you feeling as though the theater is still shaking. END SPOILERS

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