I admire Lars von Trier as a filmmaker, or at least his proclivity for challenging material. But his ambition is often undermined by his inability to escape his childish antics. His films are as beautiful as they are infuriating. Strangely enough, von Trier’s most mature, humane and resonant work emanates from a story steeped in science fiction. Melancholia, the second in von Trier’s “Depression Trilogy,” is an elegant examination of depression, humans’ ritualistic needs, and the human mind in the wake of tragedy. There’s a subtlety present in Melancholia that von Trier is lacking in his other films. The image above is representative of von Trier’s ability as a visual storyteller. The woman bathing in the light, which is actually the luminous glow from a planet (aptly named Melancholia) destined to destroy Earth, is Justine (Kirsten Dunst). Justine is crippled by a rapturous depression, rendering her incapable of maintaining a productive life. In some instances she’s catatonic, with her depression immobilizing her ability to communicate. But as doom looms closer and closer, Justine can’t help but gravitate towards the blue planet in the sky. For the first time in the film, with Melancholia’s glow devouring her body, Justine is liberated from her illness. In spite of the cold light, there’s a warmth in the image as Justine’s stretched limbs and exposed body makes it seem as if she is soaking up sunrays on a beach. It’s a surreal but serene moment where she calmly accepts her fate, while the rest of the world crumbles. Finally, she’s the one who has it together.
Cinematographer: Manuel Alberto Claro
Director: Lars von Trier