MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1

Content: -4

Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Southerland, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling. Drama/Sci-Fi. Written & directed by Lars von Trier.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A film in two parts, the first centering on the marriage celebration at a wealthy estate. The bride, suffering from bouts of depression, is ignited by her quarreling family and the fact that she is not really in love with her new husband. Part Two focuses on the mentally ill woman and her caring sister as they live under the threat of an oncoming planet named Melancholia, which some believe will pass by, while others have accepted the theory that the planet will crash into Earth.

PREVIEW REVIEW: An apocalyptic, end-of-the-world, fatalistic drama, this is the gloomiest movie I’ve ever seen. At one point Kirsten Dunst, in her gloomy acceptance of the inevitable, says, “The Earth is evil…It won’t be missed.” As with Terrance Mallick’s The Tree of Life, Melancholia is deliberately paced, resonant in its imagery and contemplative. Unlike The Tree of Life, which examines questions concerning God and the afterlife, writer/director Lars von Trier avoids any such topics. The only mention of God is in a profane manner as a party guest toasts the bride with the inclusion of God’s name followed by a curse – twice. Oh, and Jesus gets his name used in vain as a relief of frustration. Other than that, the Deity is overlooked. Not even the one kid in the story expresses any query about Heaven. For the entire cast, this is it, no afterlife, no anything but the here and now.

Von Trier’s characters are decadent, self-absorbed and lost. So unaware of spirituality, they can’t even find it within to pray as the end of Earth becomes imminent. Where Malick’s Tree of Life suggests that we become aware of spiritual matters and rely on faith when the conundrums of the day overwhelm, the characters in Melancholia are like whitewashed sepulchers, pretty on the exterior, while dead inside. Some find acceptance, but none really find peace.

The rather B-sci-fi-movie approach to a planet crashing with another (astronomers would be frustrated by the film’s inaccuracies, such as the way long-term gravitational pull would truly affect life on earth before the impact) reveals a lack of depth in the screenplay. It is a beautifully photographed film, but when analyzed, its story is shallow as is its ultimate theme.

The theory Christians embrace is that Earth will one day end, but life won’t. Of course, if you refuse the hypothesis of intelligent design in preference to the Big Bang belief, where all is a cosmic accident, then there is no alternative to this filmmaker’s bleak scenario.

The film holds our attention as we wonder if the planet will be saved, and it will no doubt garner Oscar attention for technical achievements, but is it really the thoughtful film many critics are calling it? How thoughtful is it to ignore the hypothesis of intelligent design when questioning our own existence?

DVD Alternatives: The Tree of Life.

Deep Impact.

War of the Worlds (the 1953 version): Nothing man can do seems to stop a Martian invasion. Ah, but God in His infinite wisdom…Based on a story by H.G. Wells, this superior sci-fi actioneer is eerie and frightening, but it also contains a positive message. Don’t miss the ending narration by Sir Cedric Hardwicke.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Magnolia Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None.

Obscene Language: Five obscenities – the s- and f-words.

Profanity: During a wedding toast, a man uses the expression, G--d--- twice; the expression is heard elsewhere once, as is the misuse of Jesus’ name.

Violence: A man commits suicide.

Sex: Suffering from mental illness, a bride ignores her husband on their wedding night and seeks out another man – shot from a long distance, it nonetheless becomes visually graphic.

Nudity: Twice we see Ms. Dunst sans clothing.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Lots of drinking as if they were trying to deaden their feelings.

Other: None

Running Time: 135 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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