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Melancholia - Not Very Melancholy

Updated on May 29, 2012
Kristen Dunst in Melancholia
Kristen Dunst in Melancholia

Slow Unfolding

The opening montage is far too long and gives away too much about what you will witness further into the film. The shift from this montage to "regular" life is jarring/abrupt, but you feel welcome to get out of the lengthy montage nightmare.

The late wedding reception is a bit too real in certain ways, e.g., the stand-up toasts given by the mother and father of the bride. Ingesting this leaves little wonder about the psychological schism of the wedding daughter. The film is more or less evenly divided between two sisters -- one of whom seems totally out of her mind and the other perfectly normal (if not a bit fastidious).

Part I deals with the character I regard as the crazy sister. From a rational standpoint, the film leaves little ground upon which we might endear ourselves with her. She is attending her own wedding reception, and does everything possible to make it a shambles, shedding a few tears here and there, but for the most part, remaining distant and seemingly unconcerned.

Perhaps she cares about her reckless behavior on some metaphysical realm, but on the day-to-day, getting through a ceremony level she is a walking disaster -- not just to herself but everyone around her. This level of selfishness (whatever its cause) makes it difficult to view her with much sympathy or compassion.

In the background of Part I is the understated presence of a new Earth that has revealed itself to be returning to the inner planets from a wide elliptical orbit "behind the sun." It is best if the scientific minded don't jump in at this point because even the novice astronomer can pile up on the impossibility of this new Earth appearing on a collision course with our planet when no mention of it has appeared in any of our ancient texts.

No mater how elliptical its orbit, it could not be a mere second earth because its vast orbit away from the sun would have rendered it a solid, frozen planet. So, it's best not to pay any attention to facts, physics or science. Just accept the fact that a new Earth appears and there is speculation -- disputed speculation -- that the planet could impact our own Earth. For whatever reason the planet is named Melancholy.

Part II deals primarily with sister number two -- who seems far more level-headed, normal, and with emotions that seem in proportion to her degree of distress. Things start to go horridly wrong when she cannot locate her husband -- a firm believer in the "fly by" theory of Earth II. His disappearance is disconcerting as his wife has figured out that the second Earth is in fact getting closer to our Earth. She finally finds him dead in the horse stables, where he has succumbed to an overdose of sleeping pills -- pills that his wife had purchased in the event of the worst possible outcome. Despite all his up-beat talk, he takes the chicken-shit way out, leaving his wife and son to deal with the end however they might.

You cannot derive a comparison between either sister (sane) or (crazy) by extrapolating any kind of comparison between the ever-approaching planet of Melancholy and the states of mind of either sister. Sister number one is way, way beyond being merely melancholic about her situation. The second sister, once she realizes the terrible reality of their circumstances cannot be called melancholy either -- as she is at her wit's end.

So if the director/producers hoped to draw a parallel between the approaching planet of Melancholy and the states of mind of the two sisters, there is a lot missing. I couldn't find anything melancholy about this film, not on any level. The end is predictable but unsatisfying. Witnessing these few family members consumed by the fireball of a collision does not elevate the film.

A better ending would have been to have Melancholy narrowly pass by our planet. We would have seen how some of the prime members reacted under duress, and that would have been enough. For the entire Earth to be shattered does nothing to propel this character-driven story to some higher level; thus, it seems utterly unnecessary.

What the film required (but did not deliver) is any kind of reconciliation among the principle characters, and, in failing to do this, I'd have to state that viewing the entire film is an empty and frustrating experience. I couldn't recommend it to a single soul. Despite its artistry, fine acting and production values, the story takes us nowhere. No one develops. No one reconciles with an opposing character. Basically, nothing changes -- and that becomes a colossal bore.

You feel the time you gave to the film provided no pay-off, no elevation, no insight. And you also feel a tremendous let-down because the cast of characters were totally wasted. I'd like to ask one of them what they saw in the script that made them decide it was worth while participating in this bedraggled story.

Earth II Approaches

Kristen Dunst
Kristen Dunst

Movie Trailer

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