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Melancholia (2011)

DVD Cover (Magnolia Pictures)
Director:
Lars von Trier Lars von Trier
Starring:
Kirsten Dunst Kirsten Dunst
Charlotte Gainsbourg Charlotte Gainsbourg
Alexander Skarsgård Alexander Skarsgård
Brady Corbet Brady Corbet
Cameron Spurr Cameron Spurr

7.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Psychological Sci-Fi, Science Fiction
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: November 20, 2011
"Life is only on Earth. And not for long."

Lars Von Trier might be the greatest director currently making movies. His films bleed with urgency, even if you're not exactly sure what that urgency is or where it comes from. "Antichrist" was a masterpiece, one of the most brutal and honest films I have seen in years, and his "Dogville" and "Manderlay" were experiments in cinematic simplicity. He understands something fundamental about film that very few others do: you can do anything with it. It can go as far as you want it to go and you can tell virtually every story you want to tell with it, however you want to tell it. In an essence, it's boundless in its scope. Such describes "Melancholia", his latest piece of mastery, a stark, enigmatic and powerful picture that takes the audience on an unforgettable journey of the mind.

Part 1 of this journey is entitled "Justine" and refers to a character played by Kirsten Dunst. It's the day of her wedding to Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) and everyone has gathered at a gorgeous Swiss home owned by her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband (Kiefer Sutherland). Justine is depressed and the first part follows her as she is surrounded by characters who ignite her inner turmoil and also showcase just why she might be behaving the way she is behaving. You have her free-spirited mother (Charlotte Rampling) who thinks marriage is a joke; her boozing, womanizing father (John Hurt) who obviously cares more about having fun than having a family; and her boss (Stellan Skarsgard) whom she loathes and wants to leave. Justine's outlook on life is very bleak and she has much difficulty adjusting to the normalcy of the mundane. That is Justine.

Part 2 of this journey is entitled "Claire" and centers around the Charlotte Gainsbourg character dealing with the overwhelming fear that a planet is about to collide with Earth. A planet has recently been discovered called Melancholia and is supposed to miss Earth completely but Claire believes it is going to collide with Earth instead, killing everyone and everything in its path. Her husband tries to dissuade her from this line of thinking and has even set up a telescope for the family to view the planet. When her sister Justine comes to stay with her, we slowly start to see Justine's personality transfer to Claire. Whereas, in the first part, we see the Justine character crippled by grief and fear of the unknown, so do we in part two see Claire experience the same feelings. Whether the planet called Melancholia is literal or metaphorical does not matter. It's the journey that counts.

As with any Von Trier film - he knows how to direct actors. Kirsten Dunst is unbelievable here and delivers easily the best performance of her career. She embodies the depression of Justine in one of the most authentic ways I have ever seen on screen. It's a brave and honest performance that deserves some awards love. Charlotte Gainsbourg is haunting and enigmatic as Claire and she brings that to the table in every role she tackles. We feel what Claire is feeling - the fear, the uncertainty, the desperation and - ultimately - the acceptance. Supporting stand-outs include Kiefer Sutherland as Claire's rich and someone oblivious husband; Charlotte Rampling and John Hurt as the aging parents; and Udo Kier in a comic relief role as the wedding coordinator. But everyone plays a key part in giving us a glimpse into the personalities and psyches of two sisters.

Visually, "Melancholia" is stunning - from the first few slow motion sequences to the final breath taking imagery of a more science fiction nature. It's a beautiful piece of cinema. Von Trier has a way with visuals; always has. Here, in the guise of science fiction, he takes it to amazing new depths.

"Melancholia" is the best film of 2011 thus far, hands down. It's just on a different level of cinema altogether. I just don't see many other directors out there competing with Von Trier on this scale. He seems to know something they don't. And, on a personal level, I don't care what he says and does in his personal life as long as he keeps turning out beautiful pieces of cinema like this. "Melancholia" is a masterpiece. 10/10.
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