Danish director Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist) is a dark provocateur at the best of times, but he outdoes himself at the beginning of his award-winning Melancholia – our Earth is destroyed in a collision with a far larger planet, and it’s one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see. Two flashbacks follow, starting with the wedding of a brittle, very depressed woman named Justine (Kirsten Dunst). The setting is the lavish mansion of her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and the sister’s husband, John (Keifer Sutherland). The wedding celebration is a stilted affair, with family members and business associates all behaving badly. By the end of the night, flaky Justine has quit her job and been abandoned by her new husband.
Part two of the film is nominally dedicated to Claire, but it is more focused on “Melancholia,” the name given to a giant blue planet that has improbably popped out from behind the sun and is headed our way. John keeps reassuring nervous Claire that scientists have said that no collision will happen, but she has a bottle of poison hidden away just in case things get awkward. And that’s the film in a nutshell: a small group of not-very-interesting characters waiting for the apocalypse, unpersuasive dialogue, overly-long scenes, and the biggest metaphor for depression you’ll ever see. The Wagner music is appropriately haunting and some of the visuals are stunning. But unless you subscribe to Cahiers du Cinema and enjoy teasing out the enigmatic meanings of this art-for-art’s-sake director, maybe watch Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life instead. M
Directed by Lars von Trier
Starring Kirsten Dunst, Keifer Sutherland
R – 136 minutes
Continues at the Odeon