Melancholia (2011)

Just put a freakin’ smile on for Christ’s sakes.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Meanwhile, the planet, Melancholia, is heading towards Earth.

Lars von Trier is a very hard director to watch, especially if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into with him. Trier always seem very hell-bent on making just about every single hope and dream that anybody has ever had and basically throwing them away in our faces. The hope and dream in this film is the planet Earth.

This film is a very hard pill to swallow because it starts off so slow and depressing that it’s almost way too hard to even stick with it and just “enjoy” it. Trier isn’t all about having us be enjoyed, but he’s more about just letting us see the world from a certain persons point-of-view and letting us understand these people for what they are, not what we want them to be.

Basically what he is trying to say here is that everything you know and love, will all someday come to an end and die. It’s sort of like that song “Do You Realize??” from The Flaming Lips, but instead of a 4-minute alternative rock song, we have a 2-hour long film that stretches this idea pretty plainly and simply but the visuals is where it is taken to a whole ‘nother level.

Right from the beginning of the film, von Trier gives us these slow-mo shots of leaves falling, people yelling, horses collapsing, and the world we all know and love, basically disintegrating right before our own eyes. Trier is able to bring some real-life beauty to the whole “end of the world” idea but I almost forgot about that sometimes because of his visuals. The location that this film is shot on, is just about perfect for this film because it’s big, secluded, and can also get very glum and dark which is where this film really starts to hit its mood in.  Trier has a vision that he’s not afraid to show off and that’s something I can easily say I have to give him props for.

Despite some beautiful visuals, von Trier sort of falls down when it comes to the actual “story” aspect of this film. Seeing that this is a very personal script for von Trier, since he did go through depression, it’s almost a no-brainer that he hits the nail on the head when it comes to making us feel the depressed and sad atmosphere that he probably felt for a long time but the whole story feels a like nothing is really happening and not really going anywhere. The film starts off focusing on Justine a lot with her depression and whatnot, but then the film focuses on her sister Claire, which is where I think the film kind of forgot about Justine’s problem and never fully resolved it. This felt messy to me and almost like von Trier was trying to branch-out both sissies but in a way it just didn’t work here.

Another problem I had with this film was the fact that Justine is not a very likable or enjoyable character to have your film centered around most of the time. She over-does the whole “I’m sad” act way too much throughout this film and is sort of just left there just hanging around, looking like she could be pushed over and not even care. Just having your character stand there and be depressed for some odd reason and never explain, doesn’t make your character compelling or dynamic, it just makes that person seem more and more like a distraction from all of the other good elements of the film. I don’t know why she didn’t do a lot of the things that she did, especially by the end, but to be honest, I couldn’t say I cared all that much.

Although her character isn’t very strong, Kirsten Dunst is still very good at selling this character and does a great job with what she is given. Most von Trier female leads have to endure it all, which is what Dunst kind of has to do as well, but it’s more about focusing on how well Dunst can put act on one emotion and make that all seem believable and well-rounded. I think she was able to do that here and provide a more dramatic center for this film. Also, for anybody wanting to see some of Maryjane Watson’s boobies, you’ll get to see them as she lies naked for a good 3 minutes. MY spidey sense is tingling! Ohhh owwwww!

The rest of the cast is pretty good too. Charlotte Gainsbourg starts off as a total bitch sister as Claire, but then soon starts to warm up as shit really starts to hit the fan, and this is something that Gainsbourg is able to pull-off real well; Keifer Sutherland is great as Claire’s husband, and provides that dirty charm that he always has; and Alexander Skarsgård is also nice to watch as Justine’s hubby who basically is always push to the side. My man should have known what he was getting himself into.

Even though the film really didn’t do much for me in the beginning, it picked up a lot by the end when everything really starts to get chaotic and I think this was what won me over. The way these people act seems so real and so genuine that if I was put in this situation, I think I would do the same exact thing. I’m not saying that all humans think like me but when it comes to the end of all humanity, I think that there is just a time when you have to act and almost give up. I didn’t feel cheated by the ending and I think it was the perfect way to end a film that really wanted to build-up to its last shot, which is something it does masterfully.

Consensus: The narrative may be a bit off, and things sure as hell don’t really pick-up for the longest time, but Melancholia is a show-case of Kirsten Dunst’s acting skills as a female lead, and von Trier’s brilliant ways of creating beautiful visuals and having them add another layer to the emotion’s of his films.



  1. You know when you will watch a Von Trier movie that you can expect it not to be a very uplifting experience. The movie itself was amazing, especially as the opening shot already tells you what will happen, that feeling makes it a bit more unsettling to watch. As you say the cast was great and for me it’s one of my favorites this year.

    • I guess I’m alone when it comes to that consensus, but honestly i thought it was very well-directed it just took too long to actually get gripping. Thanks Nostra!

  2. When I found myself bored with this film, it was hard to pull myself out and be interested again! Von Trier did catch some beautiful shots though and I could appreciate what he was doing, but if it were me in this situation, I wouldn’t be using my last hours on Earth moping around!

    Nice review!

    • I definitely wouldn’t either. I’d probably find something else better to do and actually have a little bit of fun with ladies like Dunst and Gainsbourg by my side. Thanks Jennifer!

  3. This is among one of my favorite films this year. Not only because von Trier is awesome and made something very accessible. It was also because he really understands the world of depression which is why Kirsten Dunst’s performance felt so real to me. I know what that character went through and I’m sure Dunst knew what to do since she was very open about her own depression. It’s definitely the best performance of her career so far.

    • She’s very good here and the real feelings of depression did feel real but I guess I never really felt that before in my life so I wouldn’t know how to connect in all honesty. Thanks though Steve!

  4. Good to know…there was smething about this film that just screamed “blah.” It gave me a Tree of Life vibe and that movie, while very pretty, was impossible to get into. Great review!

  5. Really great review! Spot-on with the comparison to “Do You Realize?”, a beautiful but very depressing song. You gave the props to Kiefer that I forgot to give! He was great and I think his character fueled a lot of the frustrations the audience may have had and I think we got a real sense of how ingrained he was in the dynamic he had with this dysfunctional family over the years.

    I definitely think a lot of people will be thrown off by the one-note depressive ridden Dunst character and it’s a totally understandable response. The reason it worked for me was because depression this intense really is this one-note. He stays true to the experience of it as it actually exists and for that I commend him. Great job! : )

  6. Well, it does depressing aside from it is a beautiful movie. At some point when I watched it, yeah, it’s like telling us ‘It doesn’t matter what you do, the world will end. Thankfully the ending have a great effect. Haven’t heard that song from Flaming Lips though. Nice review too, Dan.

  7. Loved your comparison to the Flamming Lips song. (love that band and was the best live concert I have ever experienced). Why did you say Melacholia is a rental!?! I think people should go to the theater to go shake up their emotions a little, not go and aimlessly observe a formulaic plot with a predictable out come. Justine’s issue were resolved in the film, her visions or prophecy occurred and she was more than just a depressed person. She “knows things” other people didn’t. Her prophecy or visions came full circle and she accepted her fate. I thought that was cool. Claire wanted to see the glass half full and the situation was futile. I enjoyed your review, thanks for sharing and for your comments 🙂

    • I concur, this is a must for the big screen. Though, yes, this a flawed movie (I just reviewed it in my blog). The reviewer does latch on to that important shift to Part 2 of the the film as being problematic. I practically dozed off during that part. I think von Trier did not invest enough in Claire, emotionally, as he did Justine. Thanks for sharing your page, Dan the Man!

  8. Yeah von Trier’s films look like movies I need to be in the right mood for. I watched Dancer in the Dark, which I thought was pretty rubbish. Melancholia was good though. I also usually don’t like mopey characters, but in this case it seemed to work, possibly because it was part of a parable-like story.

Leave a Reply to CMrok93 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s