“It’s the nature of dust that’s all about us
it’s all about me and it’s all about love
and that’s a dangerous mix if you don’t get it right
and it’ll come and get you
in the dead of the night.”
— Laura Marling
As I watched MELANCHOLIA, I kept thinking of Laura Marling‘s song NATURE OF DUST and expecting it to turn up in the soundtrack. It did not.
MELANCHOLIA is centered around Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst. And that’s a good thing, because nothing else in this film makes much sense. Amazingly enough, I have not seen Kirsten Dunst in anything else (besides STTNG when she was 11). I am told she was in SPIDERMAN. In MELANCHOLIA, she is the entire film.
The film is directed by Lars von Trier, a director who has professed his admiration for Andrey Tarkovsky, the Russian who in 1972 made the first film version of Stanislaw Lem’s SOLARIS. That film was 2 hours and 47 minutes of excruciating tedium. The book was much more interesting. As one might expect given the director’s tastes and the dismal title, MELANCHOLIA was neither fast-paced nor cheery, though it is (only) 2 hours and 16 minutes in length.
Justine is in advertising, is newly married, and is rich. (Everyone in this movie is rich. It was filmed at Tjolöholm Castle which is supposed to be the family home.) The thing about Justine (who is Mother Earth in symbolic terms) is that she does not want to be any of those things.
The first spoken word happens 9 minutes and 23 seconds into the film. After that, there is an interminable party thrown for Justine by her father. Justine is the only interesting person there; Everyone else is silly or pompous or mundane, and I’m pretty sure that this was intentional on the part of the director. Our heroine tells off her boss, sends her husband away, and slips into dysfunctional melancholy.
Then comes part three of this epic, where we discover that the planet Melancholia (so named because it is blue) is on a collision course with earth. Justine seems to have known this all along. Everyone else freaks out and behaves ridiculously.
The physics of this planetary collision are somewhat puzzling, but I have worked most of it out. Melancholia the planet is really a giant dust bunny which accumulates charge from the solar wind as it moves toward the sun. (Somewhere in the galaxy, a civilization must have decided to empty a planetary central vacuum system into space.) That same solar wind slows the planet down, as it does not have very much mass. This would explain the lack of seismic activity caused by the planet’s approach, and it would also explain the way that the impact was depicted.
I have not been able to find any way to explain why car batteries should be drained by Melancholia’s approach. Nor can I offer an explanation of Justine’s fingernail lightning. Static electricity might explain that, but her hair is unmussed.