Sometimes the words that you say overshadow your accomplishments, take Mel Gibson for example, perfectly capable actor and director but his achievements in these fields are overshadowed by the occasional racist, stupid and sexist comment. Lars Von Trier has gotten more attention not for winning the major award at the Cannes Film Festival but for some rather controversial comments about how he understood Hitler and how Israel is a 'pain in the ass.' However, attention must be focused from his moment of utter stupidity to his talents as a filmmaker and Melancholia is a fine film.
Las Von Trier's latest film is an apocalyptic one as Earth waits for the planet Melancholia to pass by, meanwhile, while this extraordinary event is happening, clinically depressed Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is getting married to Michael (Alexander Skarsgård). There are clear rifts and cracks in the family, Justine's parents (played by John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling) are two contrasting personalities, the father is fun and loving, and the mother is bitter and negative. They, quite simply do not get along with each other as the mother hates her ex-husband. Justine is also alienated from her sister but as the planet of Melancholia draws ever closer it is the depressed Justine who remains calm throughout.
The inspiration for the idea of Melancholia originated from the time Lars Von Trier spent in therapy in order to cure his depression and thus depression serves as the central theme of Melancholia. It is those who are depressed that cope the best in the most stressful situations and the major, catastrophic moments almost shake them out of the feeling of depression. While the depressed act more calmly in disastrous situations the more optimistic and cheerful of us panic and act rashly. Melancholia starts off telling the end before telling the beginning. It shows the planet of Melancholia colliding into Earth, the sequences are told in a dream like style with a wide range of marvellous colour. The aspect that makes Melancholia the good, maybe even great, film that it is, is the visual design of the film. The lush green grass looks stunning in the light that shines brightly from the approaching planet. The planet of Melancholia looks stunning and we are absorbed as we watch the planet move across the sky. The ravishing production design and visuals, from the mind of Von Trier and cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro, bask the film in a hypnotic and beautiful light that makes Melancholia a visual masterpiece of colour and imagination.
Aside from the resplendent and haunting prologue and Melancholia's imaginative artistic design there is a quite compelling performance from Kirsten Dunst who deservedly scooped up the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Much of the limelight is stolen by the outstanding visuals but Kirsten Dunst's astounding performance is the major highlight of her career and stands a great chance of a nomination, this might be her only chance to win as Oscar despite only being 29. It is a strong and mature performance from Dunst who is playing women whose depression causes her to alienate others around her, they tire of her lack of motivation, and it seems that her mother's cynical personality may have rubbed off on her. Across the board performances are superb, Charlotte Rampling and John Hurt are great as mother and father, Kiefer Sutherland provides stable yet unremarkable support but among the stars of the supporting cast it is the performance of Charlotte Gainsbourg that shines the brightest.
Von Trier writes a brilliant script rich with symbolism, meaning and even a spot of comedy (the scene in which a limo is driving down a very small and narrow road is rather amusing and Charlotte Rampling gets some chuckles) but there are however occasional flaws, while Dunst is indeed superb there is a distinct lack of any likeable characters, especially Justine. The smaller characters are not quite as interesting as the two sisters but even the two sisters are not greatly likeable thus Melancholia may be a remarkable triumph of visual effects but not a remarkable triumph as a human story. Also none of the characters seem to understand the mental state of Justine's mind. There is, undoubtedly, a sense of mystery and impending doom surrounding the huge planet that is approaching Earth at 60,000 MPH and there is also a degree of tension but Melancholia, though great and deliciously well made, lacks any true emotional involvement to be registered a masterpiece but yet strangely the film had this hypnotic charm on me that kept me compelled.
The brilliant visual effects are the film's Hypergiant, Dunst is the film's Supergiant and Charlotte Gainsbourg is the film's giant. Von Trier's imagination and Manuel Alberto Claro's executing of those ideas visually are the minds that make Melancholia a visual triumph. Melancholia leaves one in admiration and impressed but never greatly moved.
Zookeeper is certainly not the great film that Melancholia is as it is another Adam Sandler and Kevin James comedy vehicle which is ANOTHER sorry excuse for a comedy film. Apparently there is something drastically wrong with being a zookeeper (which is the occupation of Kevin James' character named Griffin Keyes) as Griffin Keyes' girlfriend dumps him for that very reason. Griffin Keyes attempts to win her back, with the help of the animals who, surprise, surprise, can talk. If you find the comedy genius of Kevin James falling over, running into metal poles and being thrown over fences funny then this is the film for you, otherwise it's best to stay well away as Zookeeper's five writers never craft anything funnier or wittier than slapstick. Add the annoying voices of annoying animals and the predictable plot, with an ending as obvious as the victor of a football match between Spain and America Samoa, to the low level of wit then we have a poor comedy. The performances are drab, Leslie Bibb sucks the life out of every scene and Kevin James just adds to the claim that he is no longer funny. Featuring one of the worst zoos in the world that would be shut down by health and safety before one could say 'escaped lion'. Not only is it not funny, it is just plain dull.