health serif;”>Director: advice serif;”>Lars von Trier


purchase serif;”>Stars: Alexander Skarsgard, Brady Corbet, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Kirsten Dunst, Stellan Skarsgard


Runtime: 130mins Cert: 15


Out now selected release



What can be said about Lars von Trier that would encompass his career without getting into a detailed discussion? I think someone who is constantly is pushing the boarders of ‘accepted art house’ will do for now.

That said Melancholia is an enjoyable movie despite itself. On the surface it is a disaster movie about a rogue planet that is set to crash into the Earth, thus wiping out all life. The whole plot of the movie is revealed in the movie’s spectacular opening sequence, so no spoilers here folks. Set against this backdrop is the tale of two sisters, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). This device allows the movie to split into two chapters and explore each character in-depth.


The first part of the movie is focused on Justine, a young woman suffering from severe depression. The first section of the movie follows her lavish wedding reception. Her personal troubles plague her throughout course of the day as her depression enfolds her. The veneer of joy and fake happiness slowly tears apart, and then finally shatters in a glorious Dionysian romp on the hotel’s golf course.


The second half focuses on the other sister Claire and her family life. It is here that we see that Claire also succumbs to her fears and her own personal melancholia. One focused on the arrival of the “fly-by” planet, the baggage of Justine and her relationship with her increasing distant husband, played by Kiefer Sutherland.


The most striking aspect of this move is the scenes that serve to link the movie with the opening sequence or overture (the music of which is Richard Wagner‘s prelude to his opera Tristan und Isolde). You are left unsure if these are actually occurring or rather internal conflicts of Justine’s mind. Von Trier is genius in his presentation. Wagner is used throughout the movie to remind the viewer of what he has seen in the overture, and where the movie will end. The overture itself is a weird and distorted vision of the narrative. At the films climax, we come full circle and everything makes sense. It is interesting that the horror of a global holocaust becomes an afterthought. The viewer is instead focused on the emotion of the protagonists, the panic of Claire and the stoic relief of Justine. It is chilling!


The cast are superb. The outstanding performance of Dunst should leave no doubt of her acting ability. She is truly haunting during her descent into madness. There also some entertaining cameos including Udo Kier as the obsessive wedding planner. Kier well known for his vast corpus of B-movie roles and is a nice treat. As a sidebar, Kier will be appearing in Iron Sky (set for release in 2012), two words…Space Nazis! Another noteworthy cameo is that of John Hurt, as the dishevelled father of Claire and Justine.


There are various theories regarding the meaning of the film, and I have no doubt much ink will be spilt on this subject. I will just say that Melancholia is the least offensive of Von Trier’s works, and in my opinion his best. As I have stated, despite its gloomy content Melancholia is an enjoyable movie.    

Darragh O’ Connor