This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 11th December 2011
Put aside Lars von Trier’s controversial interviews and his recent foray into body-horror – Melancholia is a sublime piece of cinema, wrapping up the director’s very personal nihilistic vision in an exquisite parcel of visual ecstasy, impassioned soundtrack and magnetic surrealism. So far, so Lars.
Justine (a superb performance from Kirsten Dunst) arrives late to her own wedding reception in the beautiful home of Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg, also brilliant as the beleaguered older sibling). Justine’s depression and subsequent bad behaviour cause strife, and since weddings are the perfect opportunity for all sorts of worms to come out of the can, tensions grow as the night progresses. Part Two of the film focuses on Earth’s impending collision with the planet Melancholia, everyone being assured by Kiefer Sutherland’s rich scientist that it will pass unscathed. However, as Justine’s mood lifts, Claire’s anxiety grows.
Von Trier is all about mood setting, placing the art of Bruegel, Millais and Wagner within an outlandish premise like one big art installation. The film channels beautiful, eerie tableaux, and despite its dark imagining, it’s impossible not to feel that this is really what cinema was made for.