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Directed by Lars von Trier
Produced in 2011
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - Scandinavian Film
An 'apocalyptic study of depression', this flipside to Malick's The Tree of Life is this one of this extraordinary director's most serious and sincerely felt pictures yet, says Mike McCahill.
Lars von Trier spent much of the 1990s and 2000s reducing his cinema to the bare essentials, first with the Dogme project, then with his studio-bound U.S. diptych Dogville and Manderlay. The latter’s failure has sparked a rebuilding process of sorts: the grand guignol of 2009’s Antichrist is now followed by a film combining intimate chamber drama with a lavish wedding-from-hell and a possible global apocalypse. Miraculously, Melancholia not only hangs together, it’s also moving, waspishly funny, and stunningly cinematic in its depiction of personal and planetary disintegration.
Von Trier takes perverse pleasure in inviting us to the nuptials of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard), laying on alcohol-fuelled speechifying alongside a veritable smörgåsbord of angst. Beset by her neurotic sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and feuding parents (John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling), the bride understandably absconds during dessert to gaze upon her real soulmate: a solitary star in the night sky. The star, it transpires, is the planet Melancholia, set on a collision course with Earth, and getting closer by the minute.
That the end is nigh has already been established by Melancholia’s painterly prologue, with its wordless premonitions of the Earth’s final moments: an Ophelia-like Dunst lying in full bridal gear on a riverbed, Gainsbourg leaving heavy footsteps across a putting green. In visualising and dramatising his own struggles with depression, von Trier coaxes career-best work from Dunst, picking out the inner stillness in an actress commonly cast as prom queens and cheerleaders, and using it to give shape and gravitational pull to Justine’s wild mood swings.
In 2011’s other arthouse event The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick treated the planet’s origins, and its perpetuation through the family unit, as a thing of enduring, relentless wonder. Von Trier, for his part, has lived in this world: here assuming the mantle of that other great Scandinavian sceptic Bergman in wrestling with the earthly and the spiritual, he daringly proposes the end of days might come as a blessed release for some. It’s more than mere provocation: one of this extraordinary filmmaker’s most serious and sincerely felt pictures yet.
Mike McCahill on 8th December 2011
Author of 289 reviews
An apocalyptic study of depression, a 'psychological disaster movie', Lars von Trier's Melancholia sees Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgaard) celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Meanwhile, the giant planet, Melancholia, is heading towards Earth, threatening imminent global destruction...
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 135 mins
Format: Blu-ray Colour
Released: 23rd January 2012
Cat No: ART023BD
Blu-rays 7 films
Lars von Trier, 2009
Lars von Trier's controversial exploration of depression, guilt and sexuality stars Willem Dafoe ...
Terrence Malick, 2011
A long-cherished project of Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life is his ambitious, awe-inspiring, Pa...