Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Visual Parallels: Melancholia + Sleeping Beauty

By Sati. Wednesday, July 2, 2014 , ,
Two movies that are perhaps not well known but they remain some of the most unique films I've seen. Both quite difficult and similar - not just when it comes to the disturbed heroine but also the way we are shown her life on screen.

Both films follow very odd young women - in Lars Von Trier's only watchable movie Melancholia it's Justine, crippled by depression. In Sleeping Beauty, it's strange Lucy who takes a job as a sex worker - a very special one - she is being paid to drink tea that renders her completely unconscious for men to grope her (but never penetrate) as she sleeps naked.
These two girls don't belong. They aren't the way everyone else seems to be - they are very often singled out in the middle of the frame with no one else next to them, yet they look so exposed and fragile, with Justine - roots coming out of the ground to grab her, with Lucy, her all pale and naked - barely able to walk as the drugs begin to take effect.

We see many scenes in which we are shown just how different they are from everyone - Justine actually enjoying the fact that the World is about to end, because she has given up on it a long time ago and her chaotic existence was always seen as strange and odd. In the face of the inevitable it makes her the only calm person in the story - while her well adjusted sister falls into panic, Justine is all serenity. With Lucy we see her nonchalantly burning the money she earned for what she did. If it's not the money then why does she do it? Because it has no meaning for her, just as job, marriage and life itself don't mean much to Justine.
There is an older woman in the movie, in case of Justine her suffocating mother and in case of Lucy her employer. You get a feeling these two were exactly like their counterparts earlier on in their lives. The film never gives you much hope that Justine and Lucy will get off that destructive road and it's reflected in the bitterness of these women.

We also see scenes of Justine and Lucy picking fruit - with Lucy even dropping them on the floor of the car - just as life, youth and time are all slipping away through her fingers, with her on some level being aware of this. Justine is also often shown around nature - as wild and puzzling as she is. She is even shown lying naked on the ground staring at the planet that's about to destroy everything. But Justine is not scared. She is waiting.

There are men in their lives, with Justine it's her husband that's there for her but she doesn't really want him around. He doesn't understand her, nobody does. With Lucy it's her dying alcoholic friend, who seems to be the only friend she has, but he has very little time left.

We repeatedly see the characters on the bed, either sleeping or refusing to get up, or spending their time in solitude - with Justine refusing to do anything as her depression begins to worsen and with Lucy not really caring about anything - lying on the floor at work, burning money as she needs them to pay the rent, not really talking to anyone.
The film ends with two of the heroines breaking down - Justine crying as she realizes that everything is going to disappear in the matter of seconds and Lucy almost dying and screaming in horror, realizing that she could just as easily be dead at the moment. In the face of something this irreversible they feel fear for the first time.

The whole movie the characters are sleepwalking through life and they seem to become awake in the end, but only Lucy will be given a chance to change. It's hard to imagine she will, though, as her ways are as deadly as the doom coming for Justine and everyone else.

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38 comments:

  1. Very interesting visual parallels! I haven't seen Sleeping Beauty yet because the premise didn't really interest me, but Melancholia is my one (and only) Lars Von Trier movie that I love. Dunst was amazing. I'm intrigued to see how Sleeping Beauty fits against it now. :)

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    1. Sleeping Beauty is a very difficult movie but I found it fascinating, Melancholia on the other hand, given all the crap Von Trier unleashed on the world, is actually quite accessible comparing to his other films :)

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  2. That is brilliant as you probably know that I'm a von Trier fan as I think it's his most accessible film and certainly a very honest portrayal on depression since I've experienced that years ago. I can see where many of the visuals are similar as they're quite cold yet so entrancing.

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    1. Thank you! I really liked Melancholia, the portrayal of depression was indeed very honest and fascinating, given how her disease basically made her the most reasonable person in the last portion of the film

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  3. Melancholia really is Von Trier's only watchable film. It must have been a fluke b/c all of his other films are so sadistic and terrible. It's also one of the more beautiful films I've seen in the past few years. I will have to see Sleeping Beauty as well.

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    1. I was shocked when I was watching it and didn't hate it :) It's the one movie where he doesn't go out of his way to humiliate and degrade women

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  4. Wish I could contribute to the discussion here Sati but I haven't seen either of these. Hmmm, so Melancholia is Lars Von Trier's only watchable movie eh? Well I never have any interest in any of his films but I might give Melancholia a shot then.

    Great post as always!

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    1. It is, it's the only one that's not hugely boring and impossibly sexist, Dunst and Gainsbourg are both very good and Keifer Sutherland steals the film.

      Thank you! :)

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    2. Lars must love Gainsbourg a lot, seems that she's in every one of his movies. Yeah, a lot of Lars' films seem oversexed AND sexist, NOT my cup of tea at all. Interesting to see Kiefer here too.

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    3. Yeah ever since Antichrist, this poor woman :)

      Kiefer actually had few funny scenes here, he played Gainsbourg's husband who was super annoyed with the 'crazy bitches' - her sister and mother and at one point he even threw their luggage out. I think it was the only time I laughed during Von Trier's movie.

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  5. Haven't seen Sleeping Beauty yet but it seems like a great movie from the looks of it. But this whole post for me was reliving the emotions Melancholia gave me.. I remember the day, I remember the cold cinema (it actually was freezing!) and the way I felt for days after it.. which wasn't a great feeling. And yet, though I felt miserable and just worn out, that's a sign of a really great movie. I guess Tree of Life wanted to achieve similar feelings... but was just too caught up with god knows what whilst Melancholia was simpel and so hard on the soul that it still hurts.

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    1. Tree of Life nearly rendered me comatose. Good God there was like 30 minutes of shots of sky in this one. Comparing to that Melancholia was a fast paced thrill ride :)

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  6. I love your Visual Parallels, they're so awesome! I feel that Melancholia is definitely my favourite Lars von Trier film after Breaking the Waves. What did you think of Breaking the Waves? I haven't seen Sleeping Beauty, but I'll check it out as soon as I can :)

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    1. I like Watson's performance in it but I found the story to be ridiculous and just yet another tale of a woman getting raped and brutalized for Lars to enjoy making a movie about. I think he has deep psychological issues and honestly every time I see an actress work with him I lose a bit of respect for her.

      Dunst was great here and quite lucky as she didn't have to go through things nearly as humiliating as other ones.

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  7. Lovely post as always. I never thought of these two films being similar, but this all makes so much sense.

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    1. Thank you and yey someone actually saw Sleeping Beauty besides me :)

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  8. I love these kinds of posts! I saw one done up of Her and Lost in Translation, and it was perfection (and so interesting to see). I haven't seen Sleeping Beauty, but I really want to, just to compare these images for myself. I like von Trier far more than you, but I do understand anyone not liking him at all. He's...interesting.

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    1. Thanks! I've done several of VP but they are not a regular thing, all it takes is one shot for my brain to pick up and connect with something else but I don't have the time to see many films lately and it doesn't happen that often :) I'd love to pair Enemy with something, though.

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  9. Another great Visual Parallels post. I actually haven't seen Sleeping Beauty, so now I have to check it out ASAP. The imagery alone has more very interested.

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    1. I hope you'll like it, it's a very divisive movie, I think even more so than Melancholia.

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  10. Melancholia is indeed the only watchable von Trier's movie and I was surprised that I actually liked it very much. The story itself but I especially loved Kirsten Dunst's performance and movie's incredible prologue.
    I haven't seen Sleeping Beauty yet, but after reading your article I'm definitelly sold on seeing it.

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    1. Man, I hope you guys won't hate that one when you see it, I am one of I think 10 people on the Internet who actually liked the movie :)

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  11. I haven't seen Sleeping Beauty, but I can see the resemblance. It seems the two lead actresses aren't intimidated with nude scenes. Interesting choice! Can't wait for the next edition

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    1. Thanks! Yeah Kirsten and Emily are definitely not shy :)

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  12. Very interesting comparisons, I think that's what I love most about your visual parallels. I wasn't a fan of Sleeping Beauty, but I admire what it tried to do and I thought Browning gave a very brave performance. I'm not a fan of Lars Von Trier (Nymphomaniac was fucking shit), but Melancholia is a masterpiece to me and one of my favourite films.

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    1. Thank you so much! Browning was so good here, I wish she was given better offers, it seems she only gets parts in underseen indies lately.

      Nymphomaniac was so bad! :)

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  13. This is really cool, Sati -- another awesome entry in one of my favorite blog series. I haven't seen Sleeping Beauty, but I can definitely see the parallels here. Great work!

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  14. Beautiful post Sati! I actully haven't seen Melancholia yet (shame on me), but I thought Sleeping Beauty was so underrated. Really strange and fascinating premise. Really looking forward to seeing Melancholia now!

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    1. Thank you! Meh, it's only Von Trier so even if you don't see it you are avoiding some toxicity, it's all good :) But I hope you'll enjoy it when you see it, it's really the only movie of his I like.

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  15. Ah, Melancholia. My introduction to Lars.

    This post is excellent and I really appreciate the time and effort that must go into making these (though there's a part of me that imagines you waving your hands around like Tom Cruise in Minority Report and all this stuff comes together in an incomprehensible [to others] instant). Very well done, as always.

    You've nailed Justine perfectly, and I'm sure Lucy as well. I, like many people above me, haven't seen Sleeping Beauty yet, but I'm all for checking it out.

    Because of the parallels, silly. Not...you know..

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    1. Haha, that would be so cool! I wish I had powers like that at work, any more of 8h non stop in front of the screen every day and I'll go blind :/

      Emily's boobs are actually not very impressive, but her acting in the movie is :)

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  16. Amazing work! The parallels are stunning, and couldn't be more appropriate. I love these movies, and Dunst and Browning are both CinSpec nominees for their fearless performances. :)

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    1. YEY! Finally someone who saw and liked the film! Browning was so good, I wish she had a better career :/

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  17. Great stuff. Melancholia was an interesting film. I can't say that I loved it because there were moments when Von Trier goes off track. When the film maintains its focus it is quite compelling. But I'm like you, Lars isn't my favorite director.

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    1. I just don't respect the guy, I think he has some disturbing issues and he acts like he is proud of them. That's even more disturbing. But this film was good, great acting from everyone.

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  18. I haven't seen Sleeping Beauty, but you've got some interesting parallels here! You've also reminded me how much I love Melancholia; it's so beautiful.

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    1. It really is, I still cannot believe Von Trier made this :)

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