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Melancholia Movie Review

Updated on December 28, 2011
Lars Von Trier's Melancholia  Starring Kirsten Dunst
Lars Von Trier's Melancholia Starring Kirsten Dunst | Source

Premiered 5/18/2011 Cannes Film Festival

Written and directed by Lars Von Trier

Produced by Zentropa Entertainment

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures (USA, Canada)

Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content and language

136 mins.

Drama / Sci-Fi

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgard

IMDB Rating: 7.4 out of 10

Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 78%

Currently playing in theaters and available on VOD

Yet another film in a long line of apocalyptically themed releases this year, Melancholia is Lars Von Trier's follow up to the highly controversial Antichrist (2009). This time Von Trier applies his art to the total annihilation of mankind through a planet on a collision course with earth. The film is set in two parts and focuses on two sisters during and after the wedding of the younger of the two, played by Kirsten Dunst. All interior scenes were shot at the Film i Vast's studios in Trollhatan, Sweden. All exterior scenes were filmed on the grounds of the Tjolohom Castle in Halland, Sweden.

Kirsten Dunst in the opening sequence of Lars Von Trier's Melancholia
Kirsten Dunst in the opening sequence of Lars Von Trier's Melancholia | Source
Alexander Skarsgard and Kirsten dunst in Lars Von Trier's Melancholia
Alexander Skarsgard and Kirsten dunst in Lars Von Trier's Melancholia | Source

The opening sequence is a series of breathtakingly vivid slow motion clips set very effectively to the prelude to Richard Wagner's Triste Und Isolde. The last of these scenes show a giant planet colliding with the earth, negating the need for a spoiler alert. By doing so I think Von Trier releases the viewer from any feelings of suspense, giving the ability to watch the movie in a more objective matter.

Justine (part one) takes place during the wedding reception of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) at the lavish estate of brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland) and sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). After a brief but typical wedding drama moment involving the girls estranged mother and father (Charlotte Rampling & john Hurt), we begin to realize that all is not well with Justine as she becomes increasingly distant from the party. John Hurt and Kiefer Sutherland are impeccably cast as philandering father and snooty brother-in-law. Udo Kier is simply hilarious, albeit briefly, as the wedding planner.

Claire (part 2) takes place an unspecified amount of time later when a severely depressed Justine returns to the estate to be cared for by Claire as the rogue planet, Melancholia, is set to make a pass close to earth.

Kirsten Dunst won the Best Actress Award at the closing ceremonies of the Cannes Film Festival for her role. It is well deserved. Her acting abilities shine in this film, much more so than in many of her other roles. She floats effortlessly between depressed, happy, angry, powerful, helpless and sometimes even childlike. Reportedly, the part was written with Penelope Cruz in mind, but having seen Dunst's performance, I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Charlotte Gainsbourg returns from Von Trier's Antichrist in a much more subdued but equally effective role as the only person that really seems to care that all life is about to end.

Melancholia is a visually striking, fluid, matter of fact account of what Von Trier thinks the end of the world would feel like. It was reportedly written in a bout of his own deep depression. He may have a deep seated hatred for mankind as well. He's at the very least extremely disappointed with us.

This movie may leave you glaring warily at the night sky for a week or two.


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    • peepingtomb profile image

      peepingtomb 6 years ago

      You're right Ralph. I usually label 100% downer movies as a real "feel bad" movie. I forgot to use my own line. There were a few laughs in this one though. barranca: I've watched the opening sequence a few times since on youtube and it doesn't lose much of it's power on the smallest screen. I saw it in an independent theater and the screen wasn't much bigger than the biggest flat screen TV.

    • barranca profile image

      barranca 6 years ago

      I liked the imagery and mood of the movie even though I made the mistake of watching it on my computer. It must be pretty stunning in a theater. Excellent review.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 6 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Nice review. I saw Melancholia last night, and I agree with your comments. I was tired when I watched the movie on video on demand, but it held my interest from beginning to end. What a bunch of unsympathetic characters. I'd only add the obvious comment that the movie was a downer from beginning to end.