Nastiness Diagnosis. Anthropology. Religion. Gender. Justice. A Personal Notepad For the General Public.
Depression writ Large – planetary collision.
This is Las van Tier’s most emotionally stable film, at least it seems to me. Although the feelings surrounding depression breakdowns are meant to be disturbing and infesting, the movements of those contradictions were crafted quite understandably into the "hour-glass" patterned narratives (to borrow E.M. Foster’s literary theory). Hence the effects of melancholia, both as the disease and as (its allegorical manifestation) the rogue planet: (Justine’s) madness turnes into celebration, while (Claire’s) cagey hopefulness turns into outright fright.
So this is how Las van Tier keeps his promise to make a film out of each genre. But this sci-fi is probably not "real sci-fi", although Dancer in the Dark was a "real musical" and "AntiChrist" was "not real horror film" and "Dogville" was probably a theatre play. But in the realm of Sci-Fi films, Tarkovsky long ago already set up the example of going beyond the aliens’ invasion kind of external exploration and turns the universe on its head into inward emotional journey.
Last year in Marienbad, the static and unreal scenes (the trees are without shadow)
Unfolding on a vast mansion that recalls the opulent but static flawed memory in Alain Renais’ "Last Year at Marienbad" (1961), the shadows of things are longer and more convoluted due to the approach of the rogue planet Melancholia. A rogue planet is supposedly a planet that is disembedded from a given solar system, that is, out of order, just like Depression.
So each other becomes each other’s shadow: Justine over Claire, the good and evil over the little kid, who is under the sun in the middle, supposedly the symbol of hope and eternity and who grows three shadows. Justine represents the destruction and beauty, but with the most earthy desire and despair penetrating her soul and body, only most shallowly written on her face. The character totally rewrites the history of the acctress Dunst. As a person who has been severe episodes of depression for almost half of her life, I have to praise Las van Tier, who also is a victim of depression, for constructing such true and sincere images and breathtaking but lingering moments of depression. The almost too good to be true faked smile, the dull expression behind the scene, and the trudging — very accurate word to summarize the mind of state of the bride. This is the BEST characterization of a wedding I’ve ever seen. Once in a life time moment can be so devastating and meaningless, when all the bridal duty is to do is to smile, smile, and smile, for a seemingly fantastic, but really just consumptuous, lavish and hypocritical collaboration of public behaviors among "loved ones."
That collaboration would have been more credible if it weren’t for the bride’s maverick parents’ and wackey boss’ all too honest toss speeches about their disbelief in marriage, the hedonist pleasure in lust, and the blood-sucking nature of doing business for a f*cking tagline unescapably even on your wedding night). Yes, to be a depressed bride is very hard, and nobody appreciates your depression, because a depressed person just means disruption of everything, and the depressed bride is doomed to feel disingenous and out of place, no matter what she does. Pretending to be happy? Not herself. Too gloomy? Utterly ungrateful bitch. Just modestly happy? Her parents, wealthy brother-in-law and obenoxious boss wouldn’t allow it.
This is by far the best post-Dogme 95 shaky cinema verite kind of handheld camerawork I have ssen (probably because it is operated mildly), no matter how much I still hate Las von Trier — not for his allegedly mysogynistic tradition or purposefully repulsive genital mutilation scenes he triumphed in the second latest film — but for his overly delicate awkwardness and precise pretension in making all this happen, through his films.
Still, this is a exquisite film, and it would be better without the pretentious prologue, however dreamy and sublimed it might seem.
In the memesis of 19th century novel’s pre-story summary of ideas and characters, the films starts with a series of extreme slow-motioned imageries that are beyond the physcial experiences of the characters, but the allegorical constructs of the struggles of the characters. Well, the inconsistencies were kind of unfair to the character Clarie, whom I believe is at the emotional heart of the film. Why? The trudging through the apocalyptical rains with a baby in hand is literal experience of Claire, but the floating like Ophelia princess and the barely flying over the trapping grassland is not a physcial experience of Justine, at least in the version of the film we saw.
It’s not just that the one who takes care of the depression patient is often the one who suffers no less — it is very true, but the film does more than showing that, so why not give more imaginative images to Claire, if the pretentiousness was already determeined?
Like the sisters in the film Hilary and Jackie. The big sister gives the younger sister everything including her beloved husband — the only thing that makes Hilary special in the world, for the world adores Jackie and Jackie only — but Jackie can still find her way to act out. It is a no-solution story eventually, one can either forgive or let it go.
In Melancholia, the depression is elevated to the size of a rogue planet, and the human condition the earth. Justine is the planet astray, and as the planet moves closer, she also gets stronger and healthier. Claire is the earth, and as she cares for her sister and gives in more and more, only to be insulted by Justine ("you know what I think about your idea? I think it’s a piece of shit."). Eventually, Claire is doomed to be crushed and devoured by her sister, who is Melancholia. She fails completely, as her emotion goes from furious calm to plain fright.
Claire still holds a clarity for her conscience and her love for life. This is not the Dogville’s "God/The woman will destroy the city Sodom for there is no single good man in it" ending that seemingly hates women but actually puts a woman on a pedestal for they are the epitome of the outrageous God, the one that is hypocritical. So yeah, I disagree with the idea that Las von Trier only fears but not hates women. I think it is clear that in Dogville there is a clear hatred. It is just that the object of hatred is something that is much bigger than women.
The plot of Melancholia:
Justine (Dunst) and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) are the last to arrive at their reception (the road trip and the muddy trap clearly identifies her emotional struggle only later, for during the trap we thought she was genuinely happy even during the accident. The deception shows how hard she tries to appear happy, and shows how deep the sadness is that she has to go that far without us even notcing).
Justine’s sister is the begrudging but seemingly emotionally mature Claire (Charlotte
Gainsbourg) whose cocky husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) owns the estate and reminds the ungrateful that he funded the wedding. The dysfunctional parents (John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling) trade off in toasts that begin as flattery and end in spitefulness. Justine failed to survive her own wedding and confesses that she is trudging through it.
The second part, Claire, was when the camera moves to identify with Claire further. She is the one who embraces her sickened and bitter Claire, and who is the first to rely on and the last to be thankful for. As Melancholia moves closer to th earth, we just realize that in the first part when Justine looks into the sky before entering the castle, which was a very unnatural gesture in the film, she was reinvigorated by her destructive inclinations and doomed to ruin her own weddings. Melancholia does not even have to be a real celestial event. It could happen just right between Claire and Justine. Claire is devoted to a seemingly decent and beautiful life, thinking that everything would be perfect eventually, only to discover that she could not win this battle against the meaninglessness of life. Being sucked out of all energy and mocked by the meaninglessness, embodied by the now venomous sister Jusitine — who gets transformed from a crazy bitch that had rude sex with a stranger on a golf playground in her own wedding to an enlightened goddess-like liberated nude animal under the moonlight of Melancholia — Claire broke down.
"Someitmes I hate you so much." Claire should have hated more. It is too late to be hateful.
One has obligation towards depression like towards one’s sibling. They are tied by blood and relationship, unchangeable.
The aforementioned opening sequence to the use of Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde, the moments of epicness in the film . Yet it’s also balanced by an affecting intimacy partly achieved by the urgent camerawork and improvised feel but also by the juxtaposition between the enormity of celestial happenings and the seeming insignificance of everyday human existence.
Inspired by Von Trier’s own crippling bouts of depression, the film is individuals’ depression writ large. As depression can often make everything feel pointless and insignificant, Melancholia proves that it is: the upcoming end of the world renders human existence a mere triviality. Yet, despite its outright bleakness, there’s still a certain hope inherent in proceedings with human connection in the face of the inevitable end shown as something of a virtue that is preserved by the "magic cave" sitting with hand-in-hand.
After the film, I feel I despise the venomous goddess-like Justine a bit more, for she was all too dignified and calm during the apocalypse, and get to fully identity with the initially respectful Claire now is rendered emotionally naked but still protective of what she loves till the end of the world. So yes, the berry picking moments were the turning points. Sisters’ innocuous smiles in the front, the sand of hour-glass starts falling. One turns fearless, self-righteous and irresistable. The other gets blighted by love, hatred, and the vanishing hope.