This one I recommend.

From left to right: John, Justine and Michael at the wedding.

Thought-provoking; beautiful.

Thought-provoking; beautiful.

Not every time does the USA or somesuch rescue the whole world from certain destruction. At some point we must understand that doom is inevitable. Soon, there is nothing any of us can do. Makes you feel a bit melancholy, does it not?

Lars Von Trier‘s Melancholia is a visually stunning Danish picture that follows a woman, played surprisingly well by Kirsten Dunst, who is driven nearly to madness by her constant depression, as an unknown planet simultaneously approaches Earth, threatening to destroy it and thus destroy what life this galaxy, or even this Universe probably has. I believe in aliens, but that’s not the point.

After a truly dream-like opening sequence, filmed in slow motion and depicting the collision of two worlds, part 1 of the film, titled Justine, begins. Justine (Dunst) is getting married to Michael (Alexander Skarsgård), the son of her loathesome, self-centered boss Jack, played by Skarsgård’s real life father Stellan Skarsgård. Justine and Michael arrive late to their own wedding party, upsetting Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) who both helped arrange a glamorous and big party for them.

Sadly, this is not the only bad thing that happens that night. During the party, Justine and Claire’s divorced parents (played by John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling) start bickering and Justine starts behaving strangely. She runs outside randomly, suddenly takes her dress of and takes a bath and finally tells Jack just how much she truly detests him. Needless to say, she doesn’t exactly get to keep her job. Meanwhile, John is fascinated by what appears to be an unknown star on the sky.

Part 2, titled Claire, focuses only on Justine, Claire, John and the latter two’s son Leo (Cameron Spurr). The star they saw was actually planet, Melancholia, hidden behind the sun for God knows how long; it is headed towards Earth but it wont hit it, but merely fly by. John is highly excited to see this phenomenon but Claire is busy worrying about Justine, who is getting more and more depressed and unable to take care of herself. She starts to say she “knows things” and that the planet will turn around – ‘The Dance of Death’ it is called – and destroy Earth entirely. At this point, the film actually becomes somewhat scary.

Though a bit of comic relief is provided by Udo Kier who plays the wedding planner, but it’s not so much that it ruins an otherwise depressing and disturbing film; Lars Von Trier is still a bit depressed, it seems. Thankfully, it isn’t as disturbing as his Antichrist from 2009, which truly showed how he’s been feeling lately.

I remember how the Star Wars-prequels made me dislike Natalie Portman and how delighted I was that she gave a towering performance in Black Swan. Kirsten Dunst’s story is similar; she was tiresome in the lousy Spider-Man films, but I think she surprised an entire world with her magnificent acting in Melancholia. Gainsbourg also gives an amazing performance, particularly during part 2. The acting and the visuals is where Melancholia undeniably is the strongest. There are too many greatly shot scenes to name and some of the sequences in space reminded me of Terrence Malick‘s recent masterpiece The Tree of Life.

The film, from what I can gather, has a fascinating theory. Before a cosmic event that will surely mean the end of the world, is everyone just going to calm down and await there inevitable demise? Maybe. Maybe most people will realize that riots and havoc is kind of pointless when everything is going to disappear into nothingness anyway? Could it be? Who knows? In Lars Von Trier’s mind, that appears to be the case. Even the animals stop panicing when it gets especially pointless to panic. “Don’t Panic”, quoth Ford Prefect.

The film is a great one, although I am baffled as to where it is supposed to take place. The cast is a mix between British and American actors and one fourth of Justine’s family, namely herself, is American while everyone else is British. There are German characters as well but the movie was filmed in Denmark, I think, so maybe it takes place there? I don’t know.

Be warned, if you walk in expecting an intense disaster flick, you will leave disappointed. Melancholia isn’t about the disaster as much as it is about the people who wait for it, knowing that death is the only alternative.

4.5/5 whatever.

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