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Existential Gloom Theme of Two New Movies

  • Penelope Poulou

Cataclysmic events are the backdrop of two dark films about the fragility of the human psyche as well as the world we live in.

Jeff Nichols's film, Take Shelter, focuses on Curtis, a young husband and father who experiences visions about the end of the world.

Curtis is a loving father and husband. He works in a sand mine in Ohio. His visions worsen and so does his state of mind.

As Curtis loses control of reality, he withdraws from those around him. He focuses on the one thing he can control: He builds a tornado shelter. His wife is at a loss.

Jessica Chastain interprets Samantha who sees her husband splurging on a shelter while they face mounting bills for their daughter's medical condition.

Michael Shannon delivers a superb performance as Curtis, whose quiet suffering makes his premonitions all the more potent. Filmmaker Jeff Nichols builds an ominous mood by seamlessly weaving Curtis's real world with his nightmarish visions. We feel his dilemmas. The tale taps into today's financial uncertainly and evokes recent extreme weather phenomena to enhance the sense of foreboding.

Lars Von Trier's drama Melancholia also centers around Justine young bride who is an emotionally frail individual who cannot cope with daily life, but greets doomsday with stoic resolve.

On her wedding night she has second thoughts.

Gaby, Justine's divorced mother, is no stranger to the pitfalls of marriage. Maybe it's her cynicism that triggers Justine's depression.

The drama unfolds in the middle of an elegant wedding reception. The guests and relatives are all there. But Justine is a no-show.

The reception's pristine grounds become the scene of Earth's destruction.

"Melancholia" is a beautiful blue planet on a collision course with Earth. Ironically, as the end nears, it is Justine who remains stoic.

Kirsten Dunst won best actress for this role at the the Cannes film festival. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Justine's sister Claire, and Kiefer Sutherland is John, Justine's surly brother-in-law.

In Melancholia, filmmaker Lars Von Trier shows the collision of the planets as something beautiful. The universe is cleansing itself. In both films, destruction is imminent; human life is petty and insignificant.