Posts Tagged ‘end of the world’

In a nutshell: The end of the world as he knows it

Popcorn rating: 4/5

Curtis LaForche is haunted by visions of apocalypse. The devoted father and husband (Michael Shannon) is plagued by nightmares which seem so real to him, they cause him to question his sanity. As the viewer, this proves to be an immersive but troubling experience as you feel yourself sinking down the rabbit hole with him.

Don’t expect any fire and brimstone here though. Curtis’s visions prove terrifying simply because they are feasible. He sees hurricanes, tornadoes and birds falling out of the sky and, as this external danger gets ever closer, those closest turn against him in his dreams.

Curtis is a proud man and when professional help fails to hit the mark, he renovates his storm shelter to protect his family from what he perceives to be the end of the world. In doing so he ends up alienating everyone around him including his best friend, brother, boss, patient but frustrated wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and even his dog. This is small town America where your standing in community is everything and, as you can imagine, sparks soon begin to fly.

Much praise has been heaped on Michael Shannon (last seen in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) and he deserves every bit of it. His ability to show great anguish without saying a word is amazing.

Take Shelter is also slightly reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island with both featuring a very intimate take on someone losing their mind.

Many have equated director Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter as a portrayal of the modern American psyche but in truth anyone can relate to this. It could also be seen in terms of a metaphor for the state of economy. Who hasn’t wanted to batten down the hatches during the credit crunch?

Put simply, Take Shelter is an accomplishment in terms of reminding you of the pure power of cinema to evoke feelings, from empathy to dread. And the final scene is suitably open-ended which keeps you thinking long after the credits roll.

Reviewer: DavidMorgan

In a nutshell: Better than you might think

Popcorn rating: 3.5/5

Melancholia. In which Lars von Trier shows us the end of the world as a metaphor for depression. No wait, come back, it’s really a lot better than that sounds. Beginning with the end (or THE END rather), the film opens with a series of stunning slow motion tableaux, soundtracked by Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, culminating in the earth exploding on impact with an enormous blue planet. Beautifully photographed by Manuel Alberto Claro, these scenes are simply breathtaking.

However, once introduced to our cast as they meet their inevitable end, the film then shifts gear and moves into its first part, entitled Justine, after Kirsten Dunst’s character. Justine is a bride to be on her wedding day, the reception being held at her brother-in-law’s opulent country hotel, in its sprawling grounds. This all appears to be happening prior to widespread knowledge about the earth’s imminent demise. Von Trier develops this into a masterful ensemble piece, where Justine’s burgeoning depression is met with incomprehension from her pragmatic sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) and the remaining guests, including the groom. Ultimately Justine’s marriage is destined to end as almost as soon as it has begun and von Trier unflinchingly shows her disintegration in the face of demands she’s simply unequipped to meet.

In Claire, the film’s second half, the arrival of the blue planet, named Melancholia, is imminent and the family – Claire, her husband, her son and Justine – are marooned at the country estate, awaiting their fate. Here we see Claire’s pragmatism tested, and broken, by her fear and helplessness in the face of cosmic events. Justine, however, now seems to have found a kind of equilibrium and is fully accepting, if not welcoming, of the end of the world. The feeling von Trier creates is one of claustrophic intimacy set against the beautiful landscape of the setting and the terrible inevitability of total destruction.

Melancholia is not an easy film, but that’s hardly a surprise. Von Trier doesn’t quite put his characters through the wringer here like he did in Antichrist – there are no mutilated genitals to contemplate – but he does successfully capture a sense of hopelessness, and his big metaphor of a large blue planet inexorably obliterating life as we know it, works in spite of its obviousness.

Reviewer: Tom Ridge