The film begins in reverse - the rich orchestral score borrowed from Richard Wagner illustrates a red planet, Melancholia, crashing into a big, beautiful blue earth.The first scenes show the various characters in slow motion, acting out their last moments.
A happy ending is something you usually take for granted at a wedding – however, in Melancholia, the bride Justine pretends to be overjoyed, but runs off and takes a bath, leaving the guests.
By the end of the night Justine has lost her job and her husband has left her. Meanwhile, her control-freak sister Claire is worried about Melancholia crashing into earth and killing them all.
Justine’s life was a mess and she finds peace at the end of the world, while Claire, married with a young son, is scared about losing her perfect life.
Von Trier, the founder of the now-defunct Dogme 95 movement, is famous for his melancholia. He says his fight with depression has helped inspire him.
His two principal characters in Melancholia are female, and Von Trier is known for writing especially strong parts for his actresses. French actress Carlotee Gainsbourg, who starred in Antichrist, the director’s last film, says the main characters are an extension of him.
While Melancholia soars, Hanezu, directed by Naomi Kawase, crashes.
Hanezu takes place in the rural Asuka region of Japan, Kawase’s hometown. It follows a love triangle of rural yuppies whose story is similar to the ancient Japanese tale about two mountains told at the start of the film.
Kayoko lives with Tetsuya, who owns a caged bird, and is obsessed with local-grown produce. But Kayoko tells her lover, an earthy wood carver named Takumi, that she is pregnant. He grunts in response, and she ends up getting an abortion. She leaves him and remains with Tetsuya, who kills himself.
The movie is one-and-a-half hours of watching the charaters eat organic produce and cavort with nature. There’s not much of a plot here, and viewers walked out at various times during the screening.
One Japanese filmgoer says that Kawase makes movies about Japan for non-Japanese, but it is hard to understand exactly what audience she was trying to appeal to in this movie.