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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
Cast
Kirsten Dunst
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Kiefer Sutherland
Alexander Skarsgård
Charlotte Rampling
John Hurt
Stellan Skarsgård.
Directors
Lars von Trier.
Screenwriters
Lars von Trier.
Running Time
135 minutes

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Melancholia
Lars and The Gloomy Girls


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Plot
At her own wedding reception, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is overcome by depression and alienates everyone, including her new husband (Alexander Skarsgard) and her devoted sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). When a new planet, Melancholia, appears in the sky, Justine knows it will destroy Earth.


Review
Melancholia
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Lars Von Trier continues to make the same film —about a masochistic woman who finds transcendence when the worst possible thing happens to her — in different genres. We’ve had it as a love story (Breaking The Waves), a musical (Dancer In The Dark), a small-town drama (Dogville), and a horror film (Antichrist); this is the science-fiction version, and the worst possible thing happens to everyone in the universe

It opens, like Antichrist, with an ultra-slo-mo horror scored to classical music, offering surreal images (Kirsten Dunst in a wedding dress as birds fall from the skies, Charlotte Gainsbourg and a child sinking into a golf course) that add up to the end of the world. The two sections are named for sisters who are both von Trier heroine-martyrs: Dunst’s melancholy Justine rejects every trapping of happiness and is thus not depressed by the end of all things, while Gainsbourg’s better-adjusted Claire has much more (happy marriage, child, lovely home) to lose and is enraged by cosmic cataclysm. Imagine the last five minutes of Beneath The Planet Of The Apes rewritten by Chekhov: its audacious mix of silliness and solemnity is glacially gripping even as it risks losing audience sympathy (and patience) by making Justine wilfully irritating as she responds to generosity and kindness with a kind of blank self-destruction that’s easy to read as cruelty. Twice, Claire tells Justine, “I hate you so much,” when she does or says something unforgivable — but she then forgives her anyway.

The first half is set on the evening of Justine’s wedding reception at the upscale hotel owned by her brother-in-law, John (Kiefer Sutherland, playing another of von Trier’s wrong-headed rationalists), which has been arranged at great personal and emotional cost by Claire and is wrecked by an escalation of delays, caprices, unhelpful guests (John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling as the long-estranged parents) and the bride’s impulse to turn away from her devoted, handsome, decent new husband (Alexander Skarsgård) to take an al fresco leak while in her wedding gown, disappear to sulk in the bath when the cake is due to be cut, and flee the bridal suite to rape a minor guest (Brady Corbet). She is generally such a nightmare that the wedding planner (Udo Kier) hilariously covers his eyes when she’s near because he can’t face the woman who has ruined his wedding. This section has a train-crash fascination, and Dunst (like so many von Trier actresses) is extraordinary in a difficult role, an impish but gloomy spirit.

Gainsbourg, cast in the ‘straight’ role after beyond-the-call-of-duty mania in Antichrist, is similarly perfect, and gets her heavy lifting to do in the second part, which takes place in the aftermath of the failed wedding as the near-catatonic Justine stays at the empty hotel in the last days of the planet. As has been proved by his offscreen statements, von Trier has a tendency to say things he doesn’t mean just to provoke an argument: the film seems to get behind Justine’s miserable vision, but its beauty, mordant wit and oh-come-on-now speeches about how dreadful it all is (“Life on Earth is evil”) constitute an undermining of gloom which practically sounds a chortle in the empty, Godless universe. Besides being an end of the world film, this is an Altmanesque comedy of a social event falling apart and a country-house drama that trumps family spats with the end of the world.


Verdict
Von Trier is a burr under the hide for many viewers, and the unconverted won't be convinced. But it's audacious, beautiful, tactful filmmaking and perhaps the perfect match for The Tree Of Life on a bipolar double bill.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Melancholia
Empire Star Rating

Melancholia

It's slow pacing and deep metaphors will be too much for some, but Melancholia is backed up with beautiful visuals and Oscar-worthy performances. It's a deep look into Melancholia itself, and it works. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 14:54, 30 May 2012 | Report This Post


A film for our inner hipster...

Stylish and artistically stunning with great performances and a profound vision makes Melancholia something a little special. Whilst its pace might seem slow if not pretentious to others, if you appreciate the concept you will hardly notice and find yourself hooked from its arty opening sequence towards its majestic finish. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 10:11, 02 May 2012 | Report This Post


What

Although the last scene was great cinema, what was the purpose of the wedding? What happened to the husband? Why is Dunst continually given roles? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by david hayes at 03:09, 01 May 2012 | Report This Post


PASS THE MOGADON.....

when that dirty great big asteriod smashed into the earth and killed everyone, I cheered like a loon!!!!! A plague on all of them - miserable, self centred, pampered rich gits!!! Will someone please put Lars Von (Nazi loving) Tree House out of his misery??? And pass a law so that he never ever makes another shitty art film ever again??? ONE STAR!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 15:03, 05 April 2012 | Report This Post


PASS THE MOGADON.....

when that dirty great big asteriod smashed into the earth and killed everyone, I cheered like a loon!!!!! A plague on all of them - miserable, self centred, pampered rich gits!!! Will someone please put Lars Von (Nazi loving) Tree House out of his misery??? And pass a law so that he never ever makes another shitty art film ever again??? ONE STAR!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 15:03, 05 April 2012 | Report This Post


So boring

still bored ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mixart101 at 14:52, 26 March 2012 | Report This Post


So boring

i watched over 250 films last summer after knee surgery, and this was comfortably the worst. sometimes u feel directors r makin films for themselves to the detriment of the audience. films like this jus makes me wish directors should go back to basics, i.e. entertainment should be entertaining. An absolutely awful film; i wud give it 0 stars if i cud. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mixart101 at 14:48, 26 March 2012 | Report This Post


Undecided

I really didn't know what to make of Melancholia but it had me thinking for a while afterwards. I have written (or attempted to write at least) my own analysis of the film if anyone would care to take a gander... http://goo.gl/Bfhff ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Chris1039 at 18:55, 12 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia

I can't say I've bothered watching a Von Trier film before since the hyperbole surrounding his films and the manifestos and whatnot always seemed a bit too beard-strokey for my liking. So, what drew me to watch this? Well, it was the curiosity to see how the end of the world would be dealt with by someone who I'd not thought about watching before, and I have to say I was enthralled. I can certainly see why people might have been bored or found this 'pretentious' but if Von Trier's films a... More

Posted by UTB at 18:53, 30 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia

L: Whistler I can understand that it won't please everyone, but I don't think it's pretentious at all. ikewise. I usually switch off as soon as anyone mentions the P word anyway, talk about reductive criticism. ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 10:41, 28 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia

I can understand that it won't please everyone, but I don't think it's pretentious at all. I admit that the first time I watched it, during the opening sequence, I was afraid it would just be a long pretentious bore, but once I got to the end it was all contextualised. What seemed pretentious at first suddenly made so much sense. This isn't even to mention the final scene, which completely blew me away. I found it to be utterly haunting. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Whistler at 22:52, 27 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia

Dear God was this film a pretentious bore. I understand the intention of the film (I think) but that doesn't stop it from failing on almost every level to engage me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tech_Noir at 16:49, 27 January 2012 | Report This Post


Avoid

Another pretencious 'art' film from Von Trier. A few beautiful shots aside its tedious, dull and overrated. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 18:24, 25 January 2012 | Report This Post


Worth sticking with

When I first started watching this film, I was in 2 minds as to whether I wanted to watch it or turn it off. I decided to stick with it, and am so glad I did. A great, thought provoking film. having suffered with depression myself, it was sometimes hard to watch. However, that was down to bloody good acting, Kirsten Dunst is not one of my favourite actresses, but played the part of Justine brilliantly. In fact, every cast member played their parts perfectly. A beauitful movie that doesn't requ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by smp1986 at 11:17, 22 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: BOOOORING!

Ah well, you didn't like it. It's not the end of the world... ... More

Posted by jobloffski at 06:39, 02 November 2011 | Report This Post


BOOOORING!

The most boring, pretentious, pathetic movie I've ever seen in my life. It drags and drags and drags and then it drags some more. The characters are irritating, the story is a pretentious attempt at art that fails miserably and leaves you bored beyond belief as well as depressed and disgusted. Don't waste your time and money. I'd give it a minus 5 star rating. Totally stupid. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SteveInVA at 00:51, 01 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia Review

L: Herr Schnitzel Only Dancer in the Dark for instance depicts an American justice system that is pure fairy tale. Whatever system Von Trier is supposed to criticise is purely made up and has little relation to any real patriarchy that suppresses women. ks the odds against his female protagonists to a degree where it becomes comically absurdI wasn't criticising Von Trier dealing with depression or depressive characters. What he had to say just struck me as rather one note. Once the charac... More

Posted by jobloffski at 08:13, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia Review

Only Dancer in the Dark for instance depicts an American justice system that is pure fairy tale. Whatever system Von Trier is supposed to criticise is purely made up and has little relation to any real patriarchy that suppresses women. He stacks the odds against his female protagonists to a degree where it becomes comically absurd. I wasn't criticising Von Trier dealing with depression or depressive characters. What he had to say just struck me as rather one note. Once the characters are s... More

Posted by Herr Schnitzel at 01:45, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia Review

Generally, rather than showing Trier to be cruel to women, I think his films often depict women being treated cruelly by cruel it people, and suggesting this is A BAD THING. Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, in particular centre on women treated badly by people who exploit their weaknesses and suffering at the hands of the society/system in which they find themselves, being rather animalistic towards then. The degradations the female lead of Dogville are hideous, but the small town men... More

Posted by jobloffski at 00:34, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia Review

L: rick_7 L: Herr Schnitzel L: rick_7 L: Herr Schnitzel I'm always rooting for Von Trier to make a film that I will like and I never fail to be disappointed. Von Trier has one idea here (depressives will cope better with the end of the world than non-depressives) and he bangs away at it like a toddler with a tin drum. At least this film isn't as cynical and misogynistic as most of his previous films and he doesn't seem to laugh at his audience here. No matter how sincere... More

Posted by Herr Schnitzel at 00:11, 31 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia Review

L: Herr Schnitzel L: rick_7 L: Herr Schnitzel I'm always rooting for Von Trier to make a film that I will like and I never fail to be disappointed. Von Trier has one idea here (depressives will cope better with the end of the world than non-depressives) and he bangs away at it like a toddler with a tin drum. At least this film isn't as cynical and misogynistic as most of his previous films and he doesn't seem to laugh at his audience here. No matter how sincere he is though, t... More

Posted by rick_7 at 18:25, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia Review

Breaking the Waves is really good if a little far fetched. ... More

Posted by Spaldron at 17:42, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia Review

L: rick_7 L: Herr Schnitzel I'm always rooting for Von Trier to make a film that I will like and I never fail to be disappointed. Von Trier has one idea here (depressives will cope better with the end of the world than non-depressives) and he bangs away at it like a toddler with a tin drum. At least this film isn't as cynical and misogynistic as most of his previous films and he doesn't seem to laugh at his audience here. No matter how sincere he is though, there is not much depth t... More

Posted by Herr Schnitzel at 17:32, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia Review

L: Herr Schnitzel I'm always rooting for Von Trier to make a film that I will like and I never fail to be disappointed. Von Trier has one idea here (depressives will cope better with the end of the world than non-depressives) and he bangs away at it like a toddler with a tin drum. At least this film isn't as cynical and misogynistic as most of his previous films and he doesn't seem to laugh at his audience here. No matter how sincere he is though, there is not much depth to the film or it... More

Posted by rick_7 at 17:02, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Melancholia Review

I'm always rooting for Von Trier to make a film that I will like and I never fail to be disappointed. Von Trier has one idea here (depressives will cope better with the end of the world than non-depressives) and he bangs away at it like a toddler with a tin drum. At least this film isn't as cynical and misogynistic as most of his previous films and he doesn't seem to laugh at his audience here. No matter how sincere he is though, there is not much depth to the film or its one-note characters. I... More

Posted by Herr Schnitzel at 13:51, 30 October 2011 | Report This Post


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