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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

RE: Melancholia Review

It was a good film, not quite a 5 starrer but definitely worth investing time in and you will be thinking about how you would approach an oncoming apocalypse long after the lights come up It was quite accessible for a Lars Von Trier film which surprised me, but I'm not sure whether the opening montage would have worked better at the beginning or at the end. After the adulation heaped on her at Cannes I wasn't really that impressed with Kirsten Dunst's performance especially in the latter ... More

Posted by Popcorn Required at 00:37, 11 October 2011 | Report This Post


Melancholia Review

Well, with all due respect (I love the Empire magazine!) in my opinion the Empire's review of Melancholia is a complete waste of space. As have been pointed out above you described the plot of the movie, but didn't dwell on intricacies and depths behind the idea involved in the movie. The movie is not for someone who enjoys a good comedy or maybe even silly dramas from time to time. It is a masterpiece to be savoured and enjoyed by people who know something about movies already. I have to admit... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dianarus at 13:28, 09 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE:

We'll I'm glad I caught the last screening of this at my local as it was a beautiful and strangely melancholic (yes I know I just said that) film which had a lot to say about depression and inner conflict in a very poetic and visual way. Don't care about Von Triers off screen controversies, he did a great job with this. Just a shame no one went to see it. 4/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Spaldron at 04:04, 09 October 2011 | Report This Post


I am getting increasingly frustrated with these lazy reviews that spend most of their word count describing the movie rather than appraising it. That said, this film is pretty heavy going but quality stuff. Just please, Empire, stop spoiling the enjoyment of discovering the content of film as you watch. It may not be spoiling the ending, but you can still spoil the rest of it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jrewing1000 at 18:38, 08 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Don't believe the crtitics

To me it was good not great but I thought Gainsbourg gave the better performance, also irked by the fact everyone in Dunst's family seemed to be English apart from her? 7/10 ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 17:19, 07 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Don't believe the crtitics

Can you believe my local cinema are only showing this till tomorrow night then that's it. Fuck its only been out a week, and the only screening tomorrow is 23.20! ... More

Posted by Spaldron at 16:59, 07 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Don't believe the crtitics

L: theoutsider Don't believe the critics>AntiChrist wasn't so much shocking as ade,like a poorly directed film vwith no tension. his is fucking ridiculous. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 19:34, 06 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Don't believe the crtitics

arial"]POILERS coming up.quote]ORIGINAL: theoutsider arial"] No mention of why she is depressed about life except when she tells her sister that "The world is evil" towards the end.e="2"] clinical depression, which is an illness. I certainly empathised and sympathised with her character, who was crippled by her condition, in the same way that I would empathise or sympathise with somebody who had a debilitating physical illness. Other than the golf bunker bit, which I wasn't sure really... More

Posted by rick_7 at 13:16, 06 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Don't believe the crtitics

  A SPOILERS note at the start of the review would have been a considerate thing to do as you seen to have given away most of what happens (I haven`t seen it yet).     L: theoutsider Don't believe the critics>AntiChrist wasn't so much shocking as badly made,like a poorly directed horror film vwith no tension. This is the same.It masquerades as art(the images of the opening few minutes are good)but otherwise is a dull shallow film.It is neither profound no... More

Posted by Cruisecontroller at 12:33, 06 October 2011 | Report This Post


At the risk of sounding pretentious, Melancholia is terrifyingly depressing, hauntingly realistic, and just incredibly powerful. I can hardly describe the way I felt at the end of this film without giving away spoilers, but it really struck me. There's really only one word to sum it up - brilliant. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Whistler at 23:42, 05 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Don't believe the crtitics

S SPOILERS* Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)start at the end – the end of the world, and a series of surreal, dreamlike images, set to Wagner, depicting the possible final moments of two sisters, a young boy, a few dozen birds and a horse. One sees Kirsten Dunst's Justine with her hands pointing skywards, spindly tassles of electricity crackling from her fingers – among the most arresting moments of the year. Another, which shows Charlotte Gainsbourg's legs disappearing into a golf ... More

Posted by rick_7 at 10:56, 04 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Don't believe the crtitics

A truely great film. Directed like a master painter, with compelling performances and a mood of oppresive darkness. The final shot has been stuck in my head for days. This needs to be seen on the big screen. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 00:47, 04 October 2011 | Report This Post


Don't believe the crtitics

Don't believe the critics>AntiChrist wasn't so much shocking as badly made,like a poorly directed horror film vwith no tension. This is the same.It masquerades as art(the images of the opening few minutes are good)but otherwise is a dull shallow film.It is neither profound nor in fact makes sense. Kirsten Dunst's performance was dreadful.One minute she's too depressed to have sex with her husband,the next she's bonking someone on a golf course.Hard to have sympathy when her husband leaves... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by theoutsider at 17:37, 03 October 2011 | Report This Post


Don't believe the crtitics

Don't believe the critics>AntiChrist wasn't so much shocking as badly made,like a poorly directed horror film vwith no tension. This is the same.It masquerades as art(the images of the opening few minutes are good)but otherwise is a dull shallow film.It is neither profound nor in fact makes sense. Kirsten Dunst's performance was dreadful.One minute she's too depressed to have sex with her husband,the next she's bonking someone on a golf course.Hard to have sympathy when her husband leaves... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by theoutsider at 17:37, 03 October 2011 | Report This Post


TITS!!!

Great movie but you forgot the most important reason to see this film: Kirsten Dunsts perfect pair of bare breasts! On screen! Finally! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Pelle at 16:40, 01 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Disagreement!

Saw this in Poland in June.  This is my review from the time.  I thoroughly recommend it.   oliarier) 9/10 As another famous Danish export has been known to proclaim (with a bit of paraphrasing), Lars Von Trier doesn't do Hollywood disaster movies but, if he did, they would probably look something like Melancholia.  With Melancholia, Von Trier has put together as starry a cast as any Hollywood action blockbuster from the past few years could muster - Kirs... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Groovy Mule at 23:24, 29 September 2011 | Report This Post


Disagreement!

sorry, i agree with your reviews 99.9% of the time but this film was dull, depressing and pointless. Ill give 1 star for Kirstens chest ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by adam250579 at 13:48, 29 September 2011 | Report This Post


Just beautiful. And so well-played. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sirisol at 20:47, 26 September 2011 | Report This Post


he's a genius

one of the greatest movie ever made. High-class masterpiece. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bereski at 11:05, 26 September 2011 | Report This Post


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