Saturday, April 21, 2012

Movie review: Melancholia

Nothing scares me more than the prospect of destruction on a planetary or universal scale. Sometimes I have difficulty sleeping after watching such a movie, and yet I keep putting them on my Netflix list. There must be something wrong with me. Anyway, this time it's "Melancholia" - a ponderous film that hammers you over the head with how beautiful The End will be.

The movie opens with a succession of gorgeous, slow-motion images of what happens in the Earth's final moments, ending with a newly discovered planet slowly closing the gap with Earth and smashing into it. The setup takes eight minutes, and then - knowing how it's going to turn out - we get to the story.

It's about two sisters, depressed Justine and loving but frustrated Claire. The movie's first part focuses on how badly one woman (Justine) can screw up her own wedding. The second part is more interesting. The closer the planet Melancholia gets to Earth, the more Justine comes back to life and the more Claire - who also has to worry about her grade-school son - descends into debilitating fear.

There's a horrible sense of helplessness about the whole thing, which is the part that scares me most about these kinds of movies. The protagonists can do absolutely nothing to change their own fate or that of the human race. The only decision anyone can make is how to die. No wonder Justine is depressed.

Despite the horrible and inescapable ending, those final seconds - in which a massive blue planet fills the sky, dwarfing the three humans who sit terrified in an emerald green pasture - are very, very beautiful.

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