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!

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

13 Responses

  1. man, i hate shaky direction, but i am a fan of dunst so i definitely wanna see this. thanks for the review!

    • amy says:

      @Candice Frederick, yeah. I don’t remember the shaky cam in Antichrist, but maybe that’s because all I remember about that movie was that freaking scene where… I don’t even want to remember it.

      But if you’re in for Dunst, you’ll be really pleased. I think Lars Von Trier always gets wonderful performances out of his leads…

  2. Castor says:

    Been hearing some good things about this. Glad to hear it’s nothing like Antichrist, I despised that movie!

    • amy says:

      @Castor, the only thing it’s got to do with Antichrist is the depression subject… and Gainsbourg. xD I really think she must be a masochist or something, I don’t know any of Von Trier’s leading ladies who are willing to work with him again. xD

      Why did you despised Antichrist?

      Am just really REALLY waiting for the Dogville/Manderlay/Wasington trilogy to be done.

  3. Dan says:

    Kirsten Dunst needed a role like this and I think it’ll be good for her career.

    • amy says:

      @Dan, and I think she knows it. I read she’s got German citizenship now, so she can now work freely in Europe. Smart lady, indeed. She’s gonna benefit from that greatly.

  4. Dan says:

    Really, I didn’t know that. Interesting move for her.

    …I recently watched The Messenger which was really good starring Ben Foster. Although I don’t follow who’s seeing who in Hollywood, I know Foster and Dunst used to go out with each other. Seems both their careers are taking off after a lull.

    • amy says:

      @Dan, yeah, I read that over the weekend. Apparently she got dual citizenship for a couple of years now. Probably around the time she did Melancholia.

      Ben Foster was pretty great in The Messenger, I got to see that for the Independent Spirit Awards. I just wished more independent films made it to theaters faster instead of having to wait years for a distributor to pick it up.

      I didn’t know they dated though. I only knew she dated Jake G. xD

  5. I’m watching the film right now (don’t ask how I got it) and yes, it is part of a trilogy. The next one will be called “The Nymphomaniac” about a woman exploring her sexuality. It will be the concluding film of von Trier’s depression trilogy.

    After that, I hope he gets to do “Wasington”. He’s got some unfinished business.

    • amy says:

      @Steven Flores, his unfinished business with Wasington is lingering that fine line of complete frustration. LOL

      It’s always interesting to catch anything Lars Von Trier though, however dividing his films can be. At least one can count on seeing something different. Thanks for stopping by, Steven!

  6. Rodrigo says:

    I find it kinda funny how Kiefer Sutherland’s character goes in Melancholia, considering he became famous for being Jack Bauer. :P

    Gonna give this a second watch and then fully decide how to feel about Melancholia.

    Also, the Death Star raped as much gravity forces logic as Melancholia (the planet and von Trier). Just saying…

    • amy says:

      @Rodrigo, oh the Death Star.

      I gotta be honest here… Lars’ depression trilogy is depressing me. I, for one, can’t watch Antichrist ever again, so that would render my buying the film useless. I would love to re-watch the first sequence and ending sequence on Bluray though. A big screen would be ideal, but I doubt they’re bringing this to theaters down here. They never released Antichrist.

  1. January 9, 2017

    […] 9. Melancholia […]

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