One Irrefutable Truism: Everybody Dies
Many of you that see this film will not like, or even try to understand it. That is completely understandable, and you will be in the majority. In fact, I could easily be among those of you, who just will not give this film a second thought; however, the infamously eclectic writer / director, Lars von Trier, did install a few hooks in the film, and I got caught on one.
The hook is fairly subtle - a diagram of a possible flight path of the rouge and titular planet, Melancholia, the intersects with that of our Earth. Other hooks are less transparent than the diagram of the planet's potential path, and quite possibly may be the reason why Director Lars von Trier employs such a wooden ear to way civil folks talk to each other in his film's script. Many of his characters, while their physical personas appear perfectly regular, normal, are emotionally flawed, in a tragic sense, most especially in their interpersonal relationships with other people, who should matter deeply in their respective lives.
While this interpersonal incongruity will offend the sensibilities of most folks, it can also act as a draw for others, who see few films that manifest Director Lars von Trier's odd concept of how people treat one another, and oddly, they actually identify with this odd behavior. I on occasion, however, have a bizarre interest in the abject weird that walk among us, so I just could not avert my eyes, waiting patiently for the human train wreck.
Melancholia is that film, which pushes tragically weird people in front of us, asks us to identify with a modicum of their expressive sensibilities until we reluctantly board their leaky vessel, and then, without provocation, politely informs us, "We're all going down with the ship. There will be no survivors."
And then you have to ask yourself, if you are, like myself, interested in the mechanics of how one would present this worthwhile tale of how people, families deal with the certainty of immediate communal death: How do you tell this story without making it a muddled mess of sentimentality?
The approach employed by Director Lars von Trier is the use of images, often a piece of a scene, in a vaguely consistent pattern, and interjects the aforementioned hooks to keep some of us on this fatal voyage. He then intersperse sparse dialogue to tie it all together, so that some coherence can be achieved. Think about it: This is a most difficult subject - one that the vast majority of us have strong feelings about - so Lars von Trier needed do you bridge the visual / story telling gap to keep those who remained, keeping his audience emotionally vested, until the conclusion of this tragic tale. And on this point, the Writer / Director may have performed as well as could have been expected.
Melancholia, the film, uses the communal fear of the rogue-planet-toying-with-humans-in-shock concept, as well as the isolation of the debilitating effects of bipolar depression to contrast two disparate positions of human awareness of abject hopelessness.
To achieve the allegory of hopelessness through bipolar depression, the Director employs the person of Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, who suffers terribly from the mental disorder. Interestingly, the film begins with an overture of symphonic melody and images of life, Earth and Melancholia. While many of the foreshadowing images are of Earth's imminent date with that rogue planet, Melancholia, a great many more are of Justine, within a dream sequence state: her upcoming nuptials, her paranoia with life, and her remarkable sense that not only will there be imminent danger in her life, but inextricable danger for life as we no it here on Earth. Understandably, after the imagery of the overture, the first of the film's two chapters is titled Justine.
This initial Chapter of "Justine," which inadvertently well sets the allegorical premise for the bulk of what, and why, we understand anything from this film's conclusion - in the most absolute of terms - is Justine's wedding, which went on and on from dusk to dawn.
Her wedding had all the ambiance of Frederico Fellini film, but without the prostitutes and the midgets ... well, I'm pretty sure there were no midgets.
It was was unrestrained elegance, and yet it was too much, and yet not enough. The entire scene, which was probably longer than the wedding scene from Godfather I, manifested every detail to frame the perfect storybook wedding - one that no blushing bride could ever forget, and remarkably, there was no happiness, only sad regrettable moments. Unlike Godfather I, where we get to meet Don Corleone's eclectic and most bizarre crime family, and ultimately find them interesting, here we meet Justine's family, friends, and we just find them bizarre.
In a film designed to project loss and despair, the extended wedding scene was the symbolic fulcrum of this human maze built on hopeless moments. In it we saw the promise and the pain that is life - more pain for some, even more still for Justine. For Justine, nothing was meant to be. Justine was both Writer / Director's Lars von Trier Heroine and terminal victim with her elaborate wedding as her life's ultimate stage. It foreshadowed the future, hers and everyone else's, just 6 days hence.
The second and final chapter is entitled Claire. Claire loves her more beautiful, smarter and emotionally sick sister, Justine. Claire sees her suffer under the weight of her overwhelming condition of sadness, and while she is angered by that condition to the point of pronouncing, "I hate you," she also sympathizes to the point of suffering, and one easily senses that she loves her still deeply to the end of time, which, sadly, is nigh.