Melancholia (2011) Directed by Lars Von Trier. With Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgard and Alexader Skarsgard.
Danish auteur Lars Von Trier, has proved himself to be a somewhat divisive individual. Declared persona non-grata at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011, for some frankly baffling comments about his sympathy and understanding for and of, Adolf Hitler, Von Trier seems hell-bent on a mission to make himself as misunderstood as possible. Some have called him a prankster, claiming his outbursts and general strangeness are little more than ill-conceived, elaborate ploys to get more people to engage with his work. And well, you can’t argue that it isn’t working.
Of his films to date, Melancholia has perhaps been cited as his most accessible offering. The set-up is very simple – there’s a massive blue planet called Melancholia, that is on a collision course with Earth. The film is split into two segments, focusing mainly on the relationship between two sisters played by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Of course, we’re all now very familiar with cinematic tales of global destruction. Between Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich, it’s well trodden path. What’s refreshing then, is that Von Trier opts for a very internal, surrealistic approach, making his film primarily about depression and the battle for sanity amid the most insane of circumstances. The result is a film that is never less than fascinating.
Dunst and Gainsbourg give layered, subtly evolving performances, indeed, such is the quality of the tone and the surrounding intrigue, that the surprising presence Jack Bauer himself (Kiefer Sutherland), is unable to derail the pervading sense of doom that gradually drapes over proceedings.
While it’s certainly true that Melancholia isn’t for everyone, there is no denying that it is a powerful and thought-provoking piece of cinema, that is likely to weigh heavily after consumption. In some ways, it reminded me of Stanley Kubrick’s more divisive work, with that slow burn and sumptuous photography. Love him or hate him, Von Trier is an artist of great talent. 4/5