Depression is a planet-sized weight that’s unstoppable, so you might as well accept how terrible life is and be positive; that’s Lars Von Trier’s message, and perhaps it has never wavered; from ‘Breaking The Waves’ to ‘Dancer In The Dark’ and ‘Dogville’ his women sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
But at first it’s hard to like Kirsten Dunst even if she is severely depressed, because she’s rich and spoiled, keeping her wedding party waiting for hours and screwing one of the guests on a golf course. However, she’s surrounded by social pressures, from her money-fixated brother-in-law (Keifer Sutherland) and embittered mother (Charlotte Rampling) to her drunk father (John Hurt) and revolting boss (Stellan Skarsgard). Only her sister (Charlotte Gainsburg) really understands her, even though she often points out that she hates her.
The film is divided into two halves, one for each of the sisters, but it’s bookended by something much bigger; the end of the world. As the planet Melancholia approaches the Earth on its elliptical and unpredictable orbit, the sisters are reconciled. Photography is equally divided between widescreen shaky cam (not as tough to watch as you’d think) and fabulously surreal doomsday tableaux played out to Wagner’s Prelude from Tristan Und Isolde.
Not everyone’s cup of tea, then, but Von Trier’s biggest return to form in years and as strangely beautiful as having a ringside seat at the apocalypse.