Film: Melancholia
Director: Lars Von Trier
Strarring: Kirsten Dunst
Runtime: 136 Mins
Review: Henry Ward

This film is showing at City Screen. Click here for more information.

Anticipating a sci-fi heavy film a la Armageddon, my expectations were not met. They were surpassed. Visually stunning and emotionally draining, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia delivers with this apocalyptic drama.

After the prologue’s beautifully constructed introductory montage, which sets up Earth’s destruction, the film rewinds several weeks leading up to the event and is divided into two parts. We follow Justine (Kirsten Dunst) her dysfunctional family on her wedding night, alienating friends and family, to a scenario weeks later where her sister Clare (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland) fear and marvel at the planet Melancholia is due to pass safely by the Earth. The film’s first half following Dunst’s character is excellent at setting up the scene, if not a little slow paced. While giving an excellent performance, it is hard to sympathise with Justine. Her character expresses increasingly the titular humor, falling into a state of depression, and neglecting those close to her in her life prompting a slight loss of interest. It is through Clare’s eyes in the second act that the audience begins to understand and accept Justine and her behaviour.

Von Trier manages to make the characters’ fears our own. The claustrophobic idea of a planet colliding with our own plays on the audience’s minds throughout. There are few typical sci-fi elements here, rather a thoroughly down-to-earth story, revealing hopes and fears in these broken characters. While we are aware of the film’s outcome from the outset, its final scene, both harrowing and beautiful, leaves one in complete silence. Much more than an end-of-the-world tale, Melancholia speaks of family, love and sadness and a group of individuals forced to confront their demons. The initial slow pace aside, Lars von Trier’s storytelling and cinematic flair will etch itself into your mind for a long time to come.

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