I first decided to go see the film Melancholia because I like science fiction, I like Kirsten Dunst, and I like Keifer Sutherland.  It also looked very artistic, beautiful, and cool, according to some of the reviews.  The opening of this film was so jaw-droppingly and dramatically beautiful that it felt more like an art film than a science fiction film.  The more I watched, the more I leaned back and forth between interpreting this as an art film, a science fiction film, and a psychological drama.  When I think back on it now, I believe that it incorporated some of the best elements of all three.

Dunst plays a woman named Justine who is sad on what should be the happiest day of her life.  She suffers from debilitating depression, and her wedding day is marred by her sorrow.  There are definitely some legitimate reasons for her to be sad and stressed, and most of those reasons have to do with her family.  Honestly, if MY mother delivered a speech like her mother did during my wedding reception, I probably would have run screaming out of the building.  But the more time we spend with Justine, the more we see that her depression has existed for years.  Add to the tensions of the wedding a larger problem — that of the future of the entire world.

Because, you see, the planet of Melancholia is on a collision course with the earth.

Or maybe they won’t collide.  Maybe they’ll just miss each other.

Maybe.

The film mixes various elements of the personal story — Justine’s instability vs. the solidity of her sister and brother-in-law — with the larger story of the possible destruction of the planet. As the threat of planetary collision takes center stage, the balance of power within the family begins to shift.  After all, who would be more equipped to handle the concept of the world ending than someone who already embraces the darker side of life?

Lars Von Trier’s direction turns this sad film into something astonishing to behold.  Sometimes the direction felt like it was too over the top, and I wanted to yell at the screen, “OKAY, WE GET IT.  YOU’RE DIRECTING!!!”  But sometimes I just stared at the screen for minutes at a time absolutely spellbound.  Some of my favorite scenes were the ones where we saw those two giant orbs hanging in the night sky — the moon and Melancholia.  It reminded me of what it felt like watching Star Wars as a kid, and appreciating the otherworldliness of seeing what Luke Skywalker saw when he looked out at the night sky.

Overall, while Melancholia isn’t a perfect film, I absolutely recommend seeing it.  I recommend it because it tells an enormous story through the microcosm of a personal story.  I recommend it because Keifer Sutherland is very good in this film, even if he does make a decision that is not at all the one that Jack Bauer would make (*sob*).  I recommend it because Kirsten Dunst is sad and gut-wrenching and poignant and gorgeous.  I recommend it because watching this film made me feel like I was back in college taking a film class, staring at the screen and feeling parts of my brain that were usually dormant starting to light up.

I will give you one warning, however.  As you probably figured out from the description and the title, Melancholia is not what you’d call a feel-good film.  So after you finish seeing it, you’ll probably need to cheer yourself up.  You might want to have a comedy film ready to watch, or maybe some episodes of your favorite funny TV shows (Mary Tyler Moore and MST3K always manage to pick me up no matter how lousy I feel), or even have a pint of your favorite ice cream ready to go.  I will just tell you that before I saw Melancholia, I was on the fence about going to see The Muppets.  But AFTER I saw Melancholia, I knew that I NEEDED to see it to help cheer up a part of my soul that was deeply, deeply sad.  And there’s nothing like the “Mahna Mahna” song to cheer up your soul.

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