The Best Films of the Decade: #34. Melancholia (2011)

| December 8, 2019
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In just 24 days, the decade will come to a close and so for movie lovers like me it is an opportunity to look over the decade of movies that are left behind. Over the next few weeks I am going to count down the best films of the past 10 years from #40 to #1. My choices are personal choices swayed by nothing but the love I have for this medium. These are all great movies. These films all achieved something great. All reached for something special. They are the best of the decade . . .

Image result for Melancholia

I’ve been saying for years that Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia is not a movie for normal people.  It’s a movie for film geeks – the kind of people that frequent film festivals and fawn over the glories of Chloe Zhao and Greta Gerwig.  Von Triers work is antithetical to anyone who subsists on a diet of Hollywood hot-plate specials.  This is a difficult film to digest.

Melancholia is a meditation about women who find themselves under difficult circumstances.  By that, it is told in two parts.  The first deals with a bride named Justine (Kirsten Dunst) who, on her wedding day, is wading in a pool of misery.  For on this day, she realizes the mistake of marrying into a family that doesn’t care about her and also on this day comes the news that a meteor is going to crash into the Earth.  No literally, a meteor will consume the Earth.

The second half deals with Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourgh) and takes place long after disastrous wedding reception.  Claire is clearly less equipped to handle the tragedy then Justine.  This second story is more direct, dealing squarely with four characters (Justine, Claire, John and their son Leo) and the coming collision. This half essentially tells us everything we need to know and even ties up some questions that we had at the end of the first half.

Melancholia is special because it approaches death in a very particular way.  By the time the calamity happens, Justine has seen it coming for a long time and knows that there is no point panicking and running in circles.  As the two planets inch closer to their collision, there’s a peace in her eyes.  Consider how rare this is.  So many movies approach death either from the bloody and ugly side of murder or suicide but rarely does a movie consider the feelings of the people who know it is coming.  That’s the journey of this film.  It’s about the approach of death and not the result or the hereafter.  It is a difficult concept to digest but one that is unusual and strangely comforting.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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