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Melancholia is an Insightful Meditation on Depression
Melancholia, the latest ejaculation from director Lars Van Trier is a film about depression, deeply entrenched, life altering, worlds colliding depression. It doesn't attempt to candy coat it like a rom com by making it funny, or silly, or quirky (think Paul Giamatti in every movie he's ever been in). Depression is given this kind of treatment in mainstream cinema probably because depression is boring (as anyone who has dabbled in it can attest to). But Melancholia is anything but boring. Sure, it's pacing is on the slow side but its beautifully shot and honestly written.
What began as a majestic opening scene, much like living, breathing oil on canvas, it devolved into an excruciating hand-held-cam nightmare. Within two minutes of shaky cam, I was nauseated, intensely so, and I don't typically get motion sickness from this style of camera work. Throughout the entire movie, there were moments when saliva filled my mouth (you know the feeling), my stomach gurgling. I thought I was going to need to make a run for the nearest garbage pale. I never reached the tipping point but the nausea lingered even after the film was over but maybe that was the narrative rather than the bouncing frame.
You may assume I mean the movie disgusted me, it didn't. It was the tightly spun tension from beginning to end that left me feeling anxious long after the closing credits. This is, I believe, Lars Van Trier's gift. The same subtle tautness threads Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves, Dogville, and Manderlay. The peak for me was when John, Claire's husband, was looking through his telescope the morning after the "fly by" and he promptly disappears leaving his unsuspecting wife on the balcony.
The performances were genuine, scary real. From the vapid bridegroom to the ice cold mother of the bride, each character was infused with depth despite the lack of screen time. I wasn't so impressed with Kristen Dunst's performance. I felt I was always watching Kristen Dunst be Justine rather than watching Justine as her own life force. I must admit, knowing that Penelope Cruz was originally cast caused me to like Dunst's performance less. Remembering Cruz's roles in Don't Move, Elegy, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, she would have fit well into this picture.
The final scene took my breath away. All of the tension cultivated, codifying into one moment where the depressive is the one calmly chaperoning her family into the void.
Apt Pupil (1998)
If anyone has ever read the novella by Steven King, you would know that this movie came right from the toilet. It lacked not only good acting but also the psychological state of the characters. The characters lacked depth, which in turn created trite and meaningless interactions. I could have found more emotions in a comic book character. Mr. Renfro needs to stick to hickville roles (i.e. The Client), no offense Brad!!