2011 Dir: Lars von Trier (cert 15, 136mins)

Starring : Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Keifer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling)

Melancholia is a really beautiful film. The cinematography is stunning. There are many striking images, particularly the shots of the rogue planet which is very shortly going to collide with, and obliterate the world. While the film is obviously science fiction it doesn’t feel like a sci-fi film; it felt plausible enough to give rise to serious thoughts about what one would do faced with the terrible scenario which Lars von Trier created for his characters.

In the past his films have been too strong meat for many filmgoers. His last film, Antichrist, was several critics’ film of the year in 2010, but it was a hard one to watch. Melancholia is much more like a regular Hollywood offering, with big name stars (Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Keiffer Sutherland) and an accessible plot. But the way the plot unfolds and the character development are way better than regular multiflex fare.

The action unfolds during a lavish wedding but the bride, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is an unstable young woman who is not quite ready for the nuptial feast. Her long estranged parents are acting out their own drama, while her sister is doing her best to keep Justine from tipping over into a very dark place. Von Trier has freely discussed his own periods of deep depression and his characterization clearly draws on his own personal experiences. When you know the world is about to end, what do you do? Do you metaphorically curl up in a ball and put your hands over your ears, or do you stride out into the eye of the storm. This is what von Trier is asking.

Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan and Isolde is featured predominantly throughout the film and creates just atmosphere to complement the air of impending disaster. The film ends as the world ends (that’s not a spoiler – you know that’s what’s going to happen from the start) but believe it or not, it’s ultimately uplifting. I loved this film.

Moira Collett