3 ½ stars
"The Earth is evil. We don't need to grieve for it. No one will miss it." (Justine)
Lars von Trier and his style are quite peculiar, that's why either you love it or hate it, in some degree, you will be biased anyway. I must say right at the beginning that his films are not exactly my cup of tea but at the same time I can't negate their artistic value. For sure, to make 'Melancholia' look like it looks is a tremendous challenge. But to watch it is an absolutely opposite experience. What I'm trying to say is that Lars von Trier invested a lot of his talent and vision into this picture, working hard, while beholding his cinematic child is a rather easy pleasant experience; not a five star one though.
What's the story?
I won't put it better than IMDb, so: "Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide into the Earth." Indeed, 'Melancholia' mostly deals with anxieties and inner collisions of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg).
Was it made look good (by those who work in pre- and post-production or behind the camera)?
Have you seen the poster? (Apparently, if you're reading this review.) Isn't it beautiful? The film is just the same. It is visually gorgeous, set against picturesque Swedish background at first and approaching cosmic menace later. Occasional slomo effect and powerful music as we observe the images from Lars von Trier's mind is the best way to affect the audience. Camerawork is astounding; while I'm not sure about other nominations, I will be very surprised if it doesn't get an Oscar nod for cinematography.
What about acting?
Kirsten Dunst won the Best Actress award at the Cannes festival and for some good reasons, and I loved her portrayal of Justine starting with the very first scene of the film for her character is extremely many-sided. What amazed me the most is her heroine's humility before the inevitable, which I can explain with the help of two words: beautiful acting. Charlotte Gainsboourg doesn't drop behind her co-star. Playing onscreen sisters, they both are so different, which is superbly expressed at the end of the film, what I found fascinating and meaningful. The rest of the cast forms a knockout cocktail of fantastic actors, like Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Stellan Skarsgard, Alexander Skarsgard, and Brady Cobert. Some of them have really small parts, but it doesn't seem that their characters are underused, probably, because the story openly focuses on the sisters, and it feels so right to "ignore" other characters.
What did it make me feel?
That's the most important question. I loved the beginning. I loved the ending. They were mesmerizing and beautiful. However, the middle of the film fell short in my vision. There is no way to describe it all without spoilers, so I won't. Besides, it's better to see it with your own eyes. (And please, if you are still deciding whether to see it on the big screen or later at home, read the next paragraph.) Another point that I liked was the depiction of the pre-apocalypse atmosphere in an isolated location. There were no herds of people, crying about their fate and trying to save themselves in a pointless crush; there were no trivialities; there were just a few personalities living out the tragedy of their world collapsing. That's why this film is very personal and feels real.
Any chance of re-visiting?
A very vague chance because this movie is better to see on big screen, so I wouldn’t re-watch it at home. Believe me, to enjoy the images, the sound (at some points, it is astounding, making you believe that the alien planet is ready to crush down the Earth) to the full it is better to go to the theater.
Although 'Melancholia' is one beautiful phantom and is Lars von Trier to his best, it doesn't work out for me as I hoped it would. However, the epilogue of the story is profound and satisfying.
Rating: 3 ½ stars (see what that means)
What are your thoughts? If you have been lucky to see it already, did you like it? If not, do you want to see it? Will you watch it in the cinema or at home? What do you think it can offer you?