‘Melancholia’ is a very beautiful film. It made a strong impression on me and for a while now I’ve wanted to write about it.
Watching the film is almost like looking at a series of fantastic paintings, or rather photographs – surprising and magical. The vibrant colours are a feast for the eyes, the greens of the surroundings and the blues of the approaching planet predominating. The grounds of Tjolöholm Castle, where outdoor scenes were filmed, make a spectacular location. (It’s kitschy and vulgar, some would say. Well, it’s a matter of taste. In my opinion, all elements of the film fit perfectly together. )
There are many contrasts encompassed in Lars von Trier’s ‘Melancholia’, both in the visual and in the narrative. The most striking one for me was the transformation of Justine’s position from a troublesome person, who could be perceived as a burden to her sister throughout the story, to a calm, composed figure, who takes over the care of the family in the critical situation at the end. Claire, the sensible, practical sister becomes shaky and unreasonable, while the unreasonable one remains serene and collected in the face of the end of the world.
We can witness two people’s completely dissimilar reactions to the same event. But how can anyone be calm when the Earth is ending? This is where the dissonance lies, and the success of the storyline. It is in the contradictory feelings it evokes. Seeing the relief on Justine’s face I felt torn: to some extent I was glad that soon she would be free of the anxiety and absurdity of living, as it was to her, and at the same time I felt sad that life for everyone else and in general would cease to exist. All in all, however, the scene did not make me feel anxious or upset – perhaps that was because of Justine’s behaviour.
I found the film to be an aesthetically ravishing experience. At the time, however, I was in the mood for some melancholy.