I missed this film when it was first released in 2010 but after a couple of years I was inspired to watch it. I was aware of the rough plot of the film before I viewed it but this film had struck a chord with me and I wanted to see how it might relate to the ‘real’ world in current times.
This film was written by Danish Film director Lars von Trier and as I am a huge fan of Scandinavian books and films such as Steig Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo trilogy – I knew that von Triers film would be original and something to watch all the way through without a break.
Shot at Tjoloholm Castle, Sweden, in part one of the film, Justine – played by Kirsten Dunst, is a newly wed, arriving with her new husband at her sitser’s (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother in law’s (played by Keifer Sutherland) mansion.
After filming and photographing weddings for over sixteen years, my observation of the wedding scenes in this film were that they were identical to the ‘real’ thing – actual wedding receptions held by the upper middle classes. I noticed that no sooner had Justine entered the reception, than the reception staff were already asking her to guess how many beans were in the jar at the entrance table, to win a prize – a slight first eccentricity. Kirsten Dunst played the role of an upper middle class bride in a completely authentic way.
John Hurt plays the role of Dexter, Justine’s eccentric father. He appears to be separated from his wife and is having an absolute ball at the reception. He has befriended two rather large ladies both called Betty at the wedding and can be seen dancing with both of them throughout the reception, much to his x wife’s disgust. During the speeches scene, he enjoyed hiding the table spoons and repeatedly asking the waiter to replace them. I have often observed that the upper classes always do indeed have huge receptions in giant castles and have an ‘air’ of eccentricity about them, especially when the father of the bride may even talk for over 45 minutes about his daughter and everything she did at primary, secondary school and university. He will then talk at great length about how he enjoys playing rounds of golf with the groom. The best man usually has to out do the father of the bride by talking even longer.
It’s quite clear that Justine is not happy at all being married – the happiest day of her life. As the reception progresses, she goes into a deeper depression and starts doing ‘odd’ things to the annoyance of the wedding party. She goes for a bath with her mother and delays the cutting of the cake. She is later found sleeping on her nephew’s bed. And for the icing on the wedding cake, she rejects her new husband’s advances in the bedroom and instead decides to go and have sex with the first man she meets on the estate’s golf course on her own wedding night. Finally she tells her boss who’s a guest, where to shove his job.
Again – this shouldn’t surprise you – I have also, some years ago, shot a wedding video where I observed the bride at the evening reception, running off with male friends into a secluded darkened golf course for fun, while her newly wed husband was lying in a drunken stupor in the reception hall with the guests.
Justine doesn’t really know why she can’t be happy but she has observed the red star Antares in the sky. It’s almost as if her mind and body are trying to warn her about something but she can only interpret this as depression. She never once in the film says that she is actually depressed. The final wedding eccentricity occurs when at the end of the disastrous reception, when even the groom has packed his suitcases and abandoned his brand new wife – the butler insists on telling Charlotte that none of the guests had guessed correctly how many beans were in the jar – and that there were in fact 638.
The theme music of the film was taken from Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isodole – it gave the film an almost ‘fairy tale’ ethereal feel, and I remember that John Boorman also used this same music in his epic classic ‘King Arthur’
In part two of the film, Justine returns to her sister’s mansion but her mental state is much worse, she can hardly feed or wash herself. By now the blue planet Melancholia is visible in the Earth’s orbit. As time goes by Justine’s health starts to improve however ironically, her sister starts to suffer bouts of paranoia and a role reversal between the two sisters occurs. Charlotte starts to take pills and is afraid that Melancholia is going to hit the Earth despite reassurances from her husband who’s an astronomer. Justine has no fear about the consequences of life ending on Earth, and takes on the role of trying to keep some form of sanity and control of the panicked situation.
Eventually Charlotte’s husband commits suicide due to the fear of an astronomical collision, and Charlotte, her son and Justine decided to await the impact together until the inevitalbe end of life on Earth manifests.
Von Trier based the character of Justine on his own experience of depression and the actress Kirsten Dunst also has suffered from depression. Why do I think this movie is a film for the current climate?
A short time ago, a colleague of mine remarked that she had noticed that people around her were acting strangely – in the swimming pool and at work. She thought that perhaps it might be something connected with the end of the Mayan Calendar which suggests that the world will end on the 21st of December 2012. It suddenly occurred to me that for the last two years, I have also witnessed lots of people in my social networking groups, sports classes and on the roads acting bizarrely. I’ve even had car drivers trying to knock me off my motorbike just because I ride at the legal speed limits. I’ve witnessed people in business networking groups lose their rationale and make bizarre allegations at me in front of the whole room. I’ve observed people in sports classes looking at me as if they want to kill me and I’ve never even spoken with them before. I’ve witnessed family members disown each other and much more.
It then dawned on me that all of these people acting strangely, on a collective human consciousness level, are all aware of something that terrifies them, however their mind deals with this, by diverting the fear of the truth into projecting the responsibility for their fear onto other people. Put simply, blaming everyone else with out taking responsibility for their own life situations.
Perhaps people who suffer from depression and bi-polar and many other mental health issues are, like Justine, aware that something in the future is going to happen that is not going to be very pleasant. I sometimes wonder if mental health disorders are very much a 21st century illness as, what ever’s going to occur, will happen in the 21st century.
We have the current melt down of the financial system, banks failing, fully blown recessions, climate changes, melting polar ice caps, and the extinction of many thousands of species on Earth in the last few decades. Many predictions over the last few centuries predict that now, are the end times, that our life as we know it must come to an end so that a new cycle can start again. I remember in the 70’s and 80’s seeing Christians walking up and down the high street wearing billboards printed with ‘The End is Nigh’ and just simply not taking them seriously. Nostradamus predicted that when the worst times are over there would be a thousand years of peace on Earth, a possible paradise.
Perhaps the people with mental health issues will be the ones who end up becoming the leaders and guides of the future as, like Justine, they will have already experienced surviving their own personal hell. They will have a perspective on reality that will allow them to remain calm and help others deal with a future possible global cataclysm, if and when that occurs, in whatever form it may take.
This is an excellent film, with an original script and gives you food for thought. Go see it.