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Jeff Nelson

The performances are utter perfection and the visuals are breathe-taking.

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How many end of the world movies have been made in the past five years or so? Well, there have been a lot. While some are taking the exact same approach that we've seen millions of times, others are providing audiences with a new perspective on the matter. Melancholia definitely takes a new point of view on the end of the world, one that's very artistic. Writer/director Lars von Trier is known for having a very different core to his films. While they're controversial and most of them only appeal to a specific audience, Trier clearly knows what angle he's looking for and has an extremely intellectual core to every film I've seen of his. Melancholia faces different topics than just the apocalypse by another planet destroying Earth, but also, as the title implies, the deep and long-lasting depression that comes along with being aware of the fate of everything we know. Lars von Trier tries to approach this piece of cinema by reflecting on depression and the fear of being alone.

Melancholia displays the disintegrating relationship between newly married twenty something Justine and her sister, Claire, just as Earth is about to be destroyed in a collision with a newly discovered planet. The film has been split into two parts. The first part focuses on Justine as she's at her wedding reception. It certainly feels like this wedding reception takes place in Hell and not in this world as everything goes wrong. Lars von Trier has appropriately kept the audience in the dark for a lot of the picture. We're given many clues and pieces of the puzzle and we're left to put it together ourselves. Yes, we actually have to use our brains during this feature! I truly appreciate and respect filmmakers who create intellectual pieces of cinema. Anyways, during the wedding reception, while it's primarily about Justine, we're introduced to her family and friends as everybody appears to be having his or her own dramatic issues occurring and coming to the surface during this reception. There's a tiny bit of comic relief during this portion of the movie, especially by some portions of the movie where the viewers know what's going to happen but simply cannot believe that Trier is actually going to take it there. Well, he clearly isn't afraid to break through barriers. As the feature goes into the second part, the movie shifts focus to Justine's sister, Claire. Justine is having a mental breakdown and Claire is being forced to pick up the pieces of everybody falling apart around her. The remainder of the movie is dark, depressing, and serious. The ending of the feature is shown within the first few moments of the running time, so don't expect any surprising twists and turns here. There's a lot of interesting material here that Trier explores in great detail, although it's very slow paced. While it didn't bother me much, I can understand how some audiences have been a little bit less patient. Melancholia runs almost 2 hours and 20 minutes long with some long, drawn out shots that clearly are used to show visuals or allow us to digest what's going on. Again, while it didn't pose much of an issue for me, I can understand why it has and will continue to be a problem for some viewers. However, I find Melancholia to be one of the purest visions of depression and loneliness displayed on film. By the time the movie is over, I didn't have a sense of depression that I thought I would, as a large portion of the movie is definitely sad. Instead, I had an odd sense of thinking of things a little bit differently. In fact, this film had me thinking about it for even days after viewing it.

Lars von Trier was blessed with a very capable cast to execute his script and bring his vision to life. Kirsten Dunst is Justine. This is most certainly the strongest performance of her career. I'm absolutely shocked that she didn't receive an Oscar nomination, at the very least. This is an absolutely heart-breaking representation that's both convincing and breathtaking. Even if you aren't a fan of her work previously, this role will certainly change your mind. Dunst's performance as Justine is definitely an underrated piece of art. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Claire. She also does a great job. She's believable in the character. Both Gainsbourg and Dunst have sparkling chemistry as sisters on screen that feels incredibly genuine. Alexander Skarsgård performs as Justine's newlywed, Michael. He delivers a personal performance that displays a softer side of him, which is the first time audiences get to see such a vulnerable performance from him. The stars of this cast shine unbelievably bright in Melancholia. Kirsten Dunst clearly steals the show as Justine. This is an absolutely brilliant performance that deserves much more recognition than it has received thus far.

As expected, Lars von Trier has put a lot of work into the visuals of Melancholia. He's an absolute genius behind the camera. Those who have seen The Tree of Life should know the style of visuals that I'm speaking of. The cinematography is utterly beautiful. Every frame of this movie could be considered a wonderful piece of art. Some of the visuals here might some random to some viewers as to why Trier decided to focus so deeply on certain elements, but nothing is random here. Everything has a purpose to the feature and is there for a reason. This is another category that I'm absolutely shocked didn't make it to the Academy Awards. This is most certainly some of the best visual work of the year. Even the CGI shots of the rogue planet look stunning and practically perfect. Lars von Trier has completely immersed the audience in not only the beautiful picture, but the jaw-dropping audio work. The dialogue is balanced and never difficult to hear. There's quite a bit of music in the movie, which comes across absolutely beautifully. Those who are fans of orchestral arrangements will want to crank the sound during this one. The surround channels are fairly reserved, but the audio will truly pull you in especially during the end of the movie.

There's so much to dissect in Melancholia that people could have heated debates about it for days on end. There's a lot of substance here, although the less patient crowds won't find it to be as captivating as I did. Despite the fact that there are some slow parts, I found it to pay off greatly. As for why this movie didn't get any attention from the Academy, I still have no idea. This is yet another snubbed picture. Melancholia deserved Oscar nominations in multiple categories. The script has some minor issues, but is ultimately well-written. The performances are utter perfection and the visuals are breathe-taking. I'm not sure what else the Academy could possibly be looking for in a movie. This picture kept me thinking even after it ended, in fact for days after I saw it. That's a clear indication that this is something that's rare to come across in cinema and deserves to be seen by many audiences. Melancholia comes with a high recommendation!

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

Next movie: MacGruber
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