Two sisters cope with one another and a planet that threatens to collide with earth, 6 December 2013
"Melancholia" is not a bad film. It's intriguing in some ways. However, it might possibly have been far better.
The story focuses on two sisters, Justine (Kristen Durst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Justine has just been married. She's suffering from melancholia or depression. Claire's husband, Kiefer Sutherland, who feels put upon by having to help Claire with Justine, is paying for a big wedding party. There we meet their divorced and rather unconventional, disengaged, bitter-cynical parents, John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling. Claire has a little boy.
There is a planet named Melancholia that is threatening to collide with the earth. Scientists do not know for sure.
The story is in two parts, titled Justine and Claire. The first focuses on Justine and her peculiarities, which are best not to reveal. Her story is quite interesting. Claire's story is mainly one of fear that the Melancholia will strike earth and kill everyone. Justine doesn't fear death, plus she is sure that they'll all be killed.
Claire more or less patronizes Justine. The sisters have a rocky relationship.
One thing that brings the film down is the camera work. I guess it's called a hand-held camera. It shakes a very great deal. It swivels from one person to another so that you notice it. Sometimes it zooms into a face. All of this shakiness detracts greatly and serves no evident purpose. Another thing is that the story seems unfinished or obscure in places. There was no reason to invest certain portions with obscurity and uncertainty. Then another thing is that the approach of Melancholia is not treated with the importance it deserves in Justine's part of the story. In Claire's part, there are too many scenes of her staring at the planet. There is only so much one can take of seeing Ms. Gainsbourg anyway in unflattering poses, jutting jaw, tight-lipped and looking mal-nourished and worn out.
The behavior of the two sisters inverts in the two parts. This is intriguing. At first, Claire seems the strong one and Justine the weaker one or fairly daffy. In part 2, Justine seems far more composed and insightful and Claire is falling apart. Kiefer's character is supposed to be caring but insensitive, worried about money and fascinated with science, also protective. He's trying to cope with these two women.
It all makes for a fairly interesting film. I think the cast did a good job, but I sense that they may have been confused by the script and its director, and did not quite know what to make of it all themselves.