Cert: 15 Runtime: 136 mins Director: Lars von Trier Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgård and John Hurt
Life is only on Earth. And not for long.
Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, a meditation on depression and the end of the world, stars Kirsten Dunst as the emotionally troubled newlywed Justine whose sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) throws her a lavish wedding party. As her lack of emotional stability begins to take a toll on Justine’s brand new marriage as well as the party — and old wounds are exposed — Claire’s wealthy husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) knows a great deal about a planet that is on a possible collision course with Earth. The second half of the movie focuses on Claire, who ends up taking her sister in after the marriage collapses, and also begins to fear that John is hiding apocalyptically bad news. John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling co-star.
It’s hard to know how much to write about the story when everyone already knows that Earth will end. The fact that we know this makes it very interesting because even though the audience knows it (as I said, we even see it in the epilogue) we still get some weird hopes that it won’t be true after all. Sometimes we even forget the planet all together because the first half of the movie focuses much more on the wedding and Justine. It’s in the second act that everything really starts going as the planet Melancholia gets close enough to be spotted. The two sisters are really interesting to study, with Justine getting a pessimistic view at life and almost feels an attraction to the planet. And Claire is the much more humane part, with all the worry and panic that you can imagine getting in a situation like this here.The movie is shot, as usual with Lars, with hand-held. Most of the film is pretty classic Lars in that sense, and most of it is also less visually striking than “Antichrist”. But when the movie really does focus on beauty, it beats “Antichrist” hands down. And that’s saying a lot because to me that “Antichrist” is one of most visually stunning films I’ve seen. Even though the style is directly influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky, I think Lars made it his own. “Melancholia” shares some of that visual style but as the planet becomes part of the visuals and not just the story, it’s really amazing. The effects of the planet looks really good. Lars clearly knows how much and how little to put in his films to make it feel more than it looks. This movie is the least disaster-like disaster movie that I have ever seen, as the psychological aspect remains the goal and the planet is the backdrop. And of course it ends with the best shot of the movie, it’s really beautiful and I’m happy I got to see it on the big screen.
Our two main leads, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg are both great in their roles. Kirsten won Best Actress at the Cannes festival and she actually did a great job with her dozy, off-beat performance. I’m not sure I’ve seen her act as well as she did in this one. And then we have Charlotte… Her performance in “Antichrist” is absolutely harrowing and must’ve been a tough act to follow, but luckily she was given such a different part as the good, humane sister. Yet again she did a brilliant job and quickly make you forget her as the crazy bitch in “Antichrist”. I wouldn’t know who to give the Best Actress Award to if I were to pick between Kirsten and Charlotte.Even though “Melancholia” probably is Lars von Trier’s nicest movie to date, it’s not without playing on your feelings. There are funny moments, very sad moments and extremely intense moments. It feels strange to say that it’s his nicest when the world ends, but it is. It’s one of his most innocent, calm and atmospheric films. It doesn’t leave you happy nor sad, you just feel hollow and empty. Ignore the scientific factual errors, you’ve got what you came for – Lars von Trier’s film about the end of the world. Yet you’re not sure if you got what you wanted when it finally ended. It ends in such a bang, but it’s a peaceful bang. Too peaceful? Not at all, it goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the movie. Would I say it’s his best movie? No, I still think “Riget” (I&II), “Breaking The Waves” and “Antichrist” are above this movie. This might be tied with some of his films, but I’m just clarifying where I stand on it. I think “Melancholia” is a fantastic movie, and I want to watch it again when I get a chance.7.5/10