As always, he creates a stunning visual film experience full of raw, wrenching performances. And he tackles themes that are so big that we're not quite sure what to make of it in the end.
Justine (Dunst) is feeling a bit detached on the day of her wedding to the doting Michael (Alexander Skarsgard), and her brother-in-law John (Sutherland) is annoyed that she's not enjoying the expensive party he's staging. Her sister Claire (Gainsbourg) is more understanding, even when events take a few strange turns. Later, the shattered Justine will become the voice of reason when the planet Melancholia, which has been hiding behind the sun, heads towards Earth in a dramatic fly-by. Now it's Claire who's overwhelmed with moodiness, fearing for her young son (Spurr).
The film opens with a series of achingly beautiful slow-motion tableaux that foreshadow the characters and nature going awry. Like a glimpse into the film's soul, this creates an almost unbearable intensity from the start. We share the sense of impending doom coming down on these two sisters - both the idea of marriage, which clearly went very badly for their parents (Rampling and Hurt), and the possibility of an apocalyptic collision of worlds.
The name of the threatening planet isn't exactly subtle, but von Trier tells the story with an exquisite mix of earthy humour, dark emotion and painterly cinematography (by Manuel Alberto Claro). Each scene is gorgeous to look at, even when people are moping around the sets. And each actor creates a complex character; as the film progresses, we begin to understand their erratic moodiness, even when the plot takes some outrageously ironic turns.
By the time we get to the final scene, we're gripped by the characters' experience, wondering how we'd cope in similar circumstances and kind of wishing we could give them a hug. On the other hand, we're not quite sure what von Trier's getting at. Is his point that humanity has gone too far off the rails? Or that people can find dignity and honesty even in the face of extinction? But then it doesn't really matter what he's saying when the film is this mesmerising and provocative.
Run time: 130 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 26th May 2011
Box Office Worldwide: $3M
Production compaines: Legion Entertainment, Zentropa Entertainments, Memfis Film, Zentropa International Sweden, Slot Machine, Liberator Productions, Zentropa International Köln, Film i Väst, Danmarks Radio (DR), Sveriges Television (SVT), Canal+, Centre National du Cinéma et de L'image Animée (CNC), CinéCinéma, Edition Video, Nordisk Film Distribution, Det Danske Filminstitut, Eurimages, Swedish Film Institute, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Lars von Trier
Producer: Meta Louise Foldager, Louise Vesth
Screenwriter: Lars von Trier
Starring: Kirsten Dunst as Justine, Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire, Kiefer Sutherland as John, Charlotte Rampling as Gaby, John Hurt as Dexter, Alexander Skarsgård as Michael, Stellan Skarsgård as Jack, Brady Corbet as Tim, Udo Kier as Wedding planner, Jesper Christensen as Little Father, Cameron Spurr as Leo, Deborah Fronko as Michael's mother
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