OK, it’s both weird and non-linear.
To the point of impressionistic, what with its long
introduction/foreshadowing with the classical music and the things falling out
of the sky and freeze-frame images, collaged as if on a cinematic canvas.
But then we get to the narrative part,
and it’s strangely disquieting of its own accord.
It seems there’s this bride and groom, all decked out in their full
wedding regalia, sitting in the back seat of an enormous limousine, lurching
along a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Apparently
they’re on their way to an elaborate reception at a remote destination, but
we’re not sure if there was ever a ceremony in the first place.
When they finally arrive, it appears that they’re a full two hours
late, but that doesn’t seem to bother them any, as the bride, Justine
(Kirsten Dunst), insists on stopping by the stables first to greet her horse?
Inside the palatial country estate, it
seems that her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her brother-in-law
John (Kiefer Sutherland) are not only anxiously awaiting their arrival; they
are also footing the bill, which, they pointedly and repeatedly claim is
enormous. This appears to be an attempt
to keep Justine placid, focused, and irrepressibly radiant, but that doesn’t
last for long. It seems that her Mom
Gaby (Charlotte Rampling) and her Dad, Dexter (John Hurt), shamelessly use
their “speech” occasions to lambast the other.
That sets a nice tone.
The wedding planners are beside
themselves because everything is so off-schedule, but Justine just doesn’t
care. She appears to lose interest,
going upstairs to luxuriate in the bathtub, alone, and has to be coaxed back
to the reception, where the incredibly-patient guests are still waiting for
her to cut the cake. More conflicts
with big sis, who says, more than once, “Sometimes I really hate you.”
Meanwhile, John throws Gaby’s luggage out the door, Dexter takes up
with a young tart and escapes, the father of the groom instructs an assistant
from work to follow Justine, to keep her in line, and they enjoy an
inappropriate encounter out on the spacious grounds, while the groom is still
anxiously awaiting in the bridal suite, having been told by his blushing bride
that she needs more time before actually considering consummating.
Hmmm. More relational drudgery,
and now pretty much everyone is miserable.
All this might be comically tragic, even
farcical, except there’s an air of urgency and immediacy that renders it as
even more offhanded lunacy than it appears. It
seems there’s a very large mass from space (asteroid? Moon? Planet?)
that’s supposed to be a “near miss,” but oops, somebody
miscalculated, and it looks like it’s going to hit, after all.
Wait, that’s what happened to the dinosaurs, right?
Kirsten Dunst, who is best known for
shallow little cute girlfriend roles in the “Spider Man” movies, here
delivers a mature, seasoned, nuanced performance in which she’s alternately
insouciant, petty, obsequious, randy, oblivious, rude, catatonic, playful,
exhausted, vindictive, mercurial, and flamboyant, a truly multi-dimensional
character. But in light of the coming
apocalypse, all the histrionics seem themselves irrelevant.
It’s interesting, to a practicing
Christian, to watch a movie about the approaching parousia without a single
mention of God, faith, angels, Jesus, repentance, salvation, or redemption.
All we have is scientific curiosity displaced by a strangely lethargic
combination of sheer terror and abject acceptance?
“Melancholia” is definitely for the
adventurous moviegoer only.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,