I just finished watching the film Melancholia. I’ve never seen anything that captures genuine depression quite so perfectly. Perhaps it wasn’t the best choice for Halloween, but that’s neither here nor there. Summarized: a previously unknown celestial body crosses the orbit of our planet and makes people feel very existential.
But there’s more to it than that. The inevitability of death is something people generally accept without much drama. The population seems to go about its business despite this pending personal calamity. And yet this film catalogs the human response to this ominous synchronized cataclysm in such a poignant way that it somehow seems to make fate a character of its own that upstages everyone.
It doesn’t end there as far as upstaging goes. Some individuals have only a few minutes of screen time with brilliant lines such as, “I dropped my plate.” And I don’t kid. You’d be hard pressed to find an actor who portrayed violence against dinnerware so exceptionally. Even the planets themselves engage in a riveting cosmic dance that leaves you gravitating toward the screen. Pun intentional.
Runners up in the “The World Is Ending and I’m Crazy But Right” genre include the fantastic film Take Shelter. Knowing with the ever-in-danger Nicholas Cage. Next with Nicholas Cage also has psychological elements in common with this film. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind strikes a chord here. Ben Afleck’s Paycheck and his doppelgänger, Ed Burns gave the theme a shot with A Sound of Thunder. Even the fatalist teen flick The Butterfly Effect tackled the subject matter. Lets not forget Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain and the recently released Cloud Atlas.
Suffice it to say the ideas presented here aren’t new, and neither is the presentation. Its Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream meets The Castle of Otranto, only instead of a giant helmet and a donkey, there’s a giant planet and a horse.
But the combination of setting, plot, and presentation is quite striking. It’s almost like every scene was filmed underwater. Remember The Cell with J-Lo and how surreal it was? That. If Salvador Dali and Gene Roddenberry had a baby and it moved to Russia and went to film school, that baby’s favorite film would be Solaris and its first script would be Melancholia.
By the way, both Take Shelter and Melancholia are compared very well here. Worth a read.