When a typical critic watches a film, she judges the director’s craft. She scours the film for the director’s consistency in plot, characters, development, and so forth. All that is fair and good, but the critic should remember crafts are mere servants to a master: the muse who helps us connect to the characters or author on a deep level. When I write a serious review instead of a parody, I would like to focus on the genius of the work first, everything else second. There is nothing wrong writing about your subjective feelings, since all reviews are really a monologue in code of a critic’s private thoughts, provided you use good judgment. So I will review Melancholia in this way.
Melancholia is a metaphor of major depression, hardly a secret. Since I have depression myself (like every other young adult these days), I easily related to Justine and endured the total destruction of all life without much discomfort. When someone with depression describes his illness with a metaphor, he tends to speak of a powerful binding force on his body making it hard for him to even move, like drowning in deep water or carrying a ponderous weight. Or he will describe an evil spirit or a sick heart that harasses him with terrible thoughts every moment.
I do feel like I carry a heavy black burden at all times and a demon does harass me every day of my life. When the burden becomes grievously heavy, I have constant fatigue. When the demon bothers me greatly, I become peevish and my ears pick up every terrible little sound that could annoy me. I carry a vague hatred of myself and every person in the world because of my turmoil; there is no direct or just cause, it is always there. Satan in Paradise Lost boasts of making Heaven out of Hell but is miserable in earthly paradise. I feel the same way, and I cannot escape my thoughts. I think of my death to come, however distant, about once a day, but I am a young man in his prime.
I relate to Justine suffering as I do but to a more extreme degree. The overture shows the entire world in slow motion, as depression makes everything slow. The film proper starts with Justine marrying her husband in a pompous wedding, but she cannot feel joy and wanders outside in a sort of trance because being in a crowd is like being in a meat grinder. Justine and her family live in a great unreal mansion, but it is empty, and Justine cannot cross the bridge that leads to the nearby village, the outside world. She becomes so ill she stays in bed all day and can barely walk, delicious meatloaf becomes ashes in her mouth, and becomes eerily calm when close to certain death.
All that is pretty bad, but Melancholia shows us the worst possible thing that could ever happen. A rogue planet crashes into Earth, destroying it; the entire human race, all human history, all life on earth, all life in the universe, is gone; no hope, no aliens, not even that little light. When I am very ill, I wish myself and everyone else would die horribly, and Melancholia makes it happen. A very fitting metaphor for depression, since people with depression often imagine the worst possible that can happen. At least speaking of depression relieves the torment.