Like both the apocalyptic collision and the crippling depressive state that it preposes, Melancholia hits hard.Two stories surround Danish writer/director Lars von Trier’s latest offering since Anti Christ. Part one sees Justine’s (Kirsten Dunst) wedding day where all of her family have gathered at the home of her affluent sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and scientist brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Surreptitious words reveal that Justine suffers from bouts of depression and it seems that this special day does not discriminate. Initially Justine and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) happily interacting on their way to the reception dinner. Speeches that follow however help break the happiness and reveal insights into Justine’s behaviour where her eccentric father (John Hurt) and morose mother (Charlotte Rampling) dart stinging barbs at each other.
The second half of the film surrounds Justine’s sister Claire and Earth’s potential collision with a galactic entity known as Melancholia. Allegorically, Melancholia is dangerous and distressing as Justine’s namesake affliction. It disturbs the air and pushes every person within its orbit to the brink of sanity.
Charlotte Gainsbourg is particularly strong as Claire. Less self indulgent than Justine, Claire is focused on the apocalyptic end to humanity, overriding her sisters own disturbances. Winning the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Kirsten Dunst displays great maturity and little sentimentality in her performance, shying away from those predictable breaking down moments. Little efforts are made to give extreme sympathy to her story. Much of Justine is an enigma and she is dangerous as a ticking time bomb.
Opening with a slow motion sequence, the film sees the galactic Melancholia orbiting and finally colliding with Earth. The presence of this other worldly entity returns within the final sequences and alarmingly heightens the film. The first half of the film, while interesting, became slow and repetitive and in true von Trier style, picks up with some action in the second half. While his dogma filmmaking style still seems intact, a technological maturity adds another aesthetic level to the film with the visual presence of Melancholia and its adjoining sequences. One of the finest scenes sees Dunst lying naked under Melancholia’s blue light like a mythological nymph in a forest.
Powerful imagery sees Melancholia as an interesting film by von Trier with strong performances, and an interesting concept, albeit with some slow moments.