Awhile back I watched a movie called “Anti-Christ” directed by Lars von Trier and was rather taken with it. It was full of hidden meanings that rewarded the viewer for both paying attention and for looking deeper into the subtext of what was being said. While I like the film I certainly understood the negative reviews I saw of it, their problem with it being that it was slow moving, seemingly graphic for no good reason, and didn’t quite make a lot of sense. Despite all this I decided to look into other Movies that von Trier had done and stumbled upon “Melancholia”. Well, after finally getting around to watching it I can say that nearly all of the same complaints can be levied against this film while still being just as rewarding of a watch.
This movie, and I am going to try my best to not sound condescending here, is not for those looking for an easy movie to watch. This is not a film that can be watched while you surf the web, play on your phone and you probably want to avoid having any side conversations as well. Movies that can be enjoyed that way are not necessarily bad, but “Melancholia” is certainly not one of them. Like “Anti-Christ” nearly everything in “Melancholia” can be taken allegorically, very little if anything at all in this movie is supposed to be taken as a literal interpretation of whats happening. This can be a bit challenging as you try to piece together what you have seen and how it all fits together in this puzzle where every pieces edges are blurry. I have my own theories as to what the movie is about but it ventures into slight spoiler territory so if you are thinking of watching this movie yourself skip to the last paragraph for my rating and come back and read this after you are done watching.
First of all, I think the movie is rather clearly about depression, if the name itself doesn’t give it away than the way one of our main characters, Justine (Kirsten Dunst), acts surely does. She bears all of the telltale signs of being clinically depressed in an almost exaggerated fashion. Justine represents what she is in the first half of the movie, a person suffering from clinical depression, while every character orbiting her in the plot represents a kind of way people react to someone with depression. Her husband (Alexander Skarsgard) does his best to comfort her with compliments and ideas about the future but as soon as those fail becomes frustrated. During a pivotal scene he says the line “things could have been different, they could have been better” and she responds “they could have, but what did you expect”. This is the line that gives away that he was hoping she would simply cheer up and that he could dispel the depression from her with his presence alone. Her brother in law on the other hand responds with disbelief, treating her as if she is simply spoiled for attention and gets angry at her when she won’t become happy. Her boss on the other hand represents how the worries of day to day life simply become overwhelming. She works for a marketing agency and has to “come up with the new tag line”. To get her to do this her boss quite literally has a new employee follow her around on her wedding day waiting to get the tag line when inspiration strikes, telling her that he will be fired if she cant’ get the tag line by the end of the night. The new employee is a physical representation of her work following her wherever she goes, never quite leaving her alone the pressures it brings with it. The list goes on and on, there is her sister, her father, her mother and even her nephew. To go over how each of these characters represent an interaction with someone suffering from depression would take more time than I care to commit, and to be honest, I could be entirely wrong.
That is one of the things I love about this film and films like it. So much of it is left up to interpretation. Where I to see it again I could come away with a whole new perspective on what each scene means, or glean new information for my current theory. Talking to others who have seen it wouldn’t just be a back and forth about our favorite scenes but instead a back and forth about what those scenes mean and how they relate to the rest of the tapestry this film weaves
In my humble opinion Lars von Trier has done it again. While slow to start up and rather dense at times “Melancholia” is a film rich with symbolism and concepts it invites you to explore. While not for everyone I give it an 8.5/10
Available on Netflix Instant