Release date: May 26, 2011
Director: Lars von Trier
Screenplay by: Lars von Trier
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Alexander Skarsgård, Stellan Skarsgård, Brady Corbet, Udo Kier
When the first descriptive words hit the web, one had to wonder how Lars von Trier would tackle the end of the world. For fans of apocalyptic flicks, Von Trier’s Melancholia won’t be their cup of tea, focusing on the drama leading up to the final moment instead of the actual apocalyptic event.
The first ten minutes of the film shows us the devastatingly beautiful destruction, the final moments of Earth as the planet Melancholia crashes into us, slow motion shots of various characters overlaid with a beautiful classical soundtrack. It’s breathtaking; however, we know right there that the film isn’t going to be about that.
Melancholia follows Justine (Dunst) on her fancy wedding day, all set up by her sister Claire (Gainsbourg) and paid for by Claire’s husband, John (Sutherland). Justine is arriving late in the same limousine as her now-husband Michael (A. Skarsgård), but Justine is anything but thrilled about this day. She seems disengaged and wants to avoid everything around, including Michael, who has noticed this.
Kirsten Dunst’s performance is nuanced — probably hasn’t been this good since her days in Interview with the Vampire — as the depressed Justine. Her relationship with everyone is strained — abandoned by her father (Hurt), embarrassed by her mother (Rampling), who suffers the same way, and even her husband, who loves her so much, is unable to cope with her depression.
Justine’s relationship with Claire, though strained, shows more similarities between the sisters than we first thought. Claire also has issues on her own but has managed to keep them in check for the most part to be able to form a family. Gainsbourg has an easier role to tackle, as we can relate to her character a lot faster than with Justine, as we see her unraveling as Melancholia draws closer and closer.
Melancholia is a stunningly shot film — though a bit too shaky. The acting was great, but the scientific logic in the film took me out it, as picky as that is. The fact that there were no signs of gravitational forces with a planet coming so close to Earth was distracting. They should have, at least, made the oceans do enough weird things for scientists to sound the emergency alarms. But I guess it serves the purpose of the film, as we could say the effect that Melancholia had on the characters (and the animals) is enough of an alarm.
The film continues Lars Von Trier’s filmography with something easier to watch than Antichrist, which interestingly also deals with depression and the awful experience of life on earth. I wonder if he will complete a trilogy, though I’m still waiting for Von Trier to get to work on Wasington. I need you to finish that trilogy, Lars!