Lars von Trier
Following a prologue of Wagner and glimpses of the apocalypse, the story sets on the wedding of Justine (Kirsten Dunst, showing she is so much more than Mary Jane and a cheerleader) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård). It’s a bleak, ugly party that most--the bride included--seem detached from.
Early on, Justine spots a bright red star in the sky that her sister Claire’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) casual stargazer husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) identifies as Antares. The next morning, it has vanished. It has been eclipsed by the rogue planet Melancholia, which is nearing Earth in an event that Claire anticipates will be much more than a “fly-by.” We do, too. The slow-motion images in the prologue of Justine in her gown floating downstream, Claire sinking into the ground and a horse keeling over weren’t for nothing.
Melancholia is split into two sections, “Justine” and “Claire.” The division seems superfluous, especially since it is Claire, in “Justine,” who best sums up life and death. There is a bean count contest at Justine’s wedding that all of the guests enter. No one is correct, though a few come closer. “Incredibly trivial,” she says. Is that how von Trier views the world? I don’t know, and I don’t think I’d ask him.
Melancholia would make a great double-feature with Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, which showed the beginning of life in an incredible sequence that complements the opening of von Trier’s film.
The images of Melancholia are just striking and disturbing. That is partly because von Trier--with the direct collaboration of cinematographer Manual Alberto Claro--doesn’t bother to show the world end the way blockbusters do. Melancholia may be how the depressed and scared would regard it. It is a quiet happening, without hours-long destruction or people running rampant in the streets. Maybe that is how it will happen. It doesn’t matter. It’s just like Claire said.
Visual Effects (7:01): This featurette takes a look at some of the storyboards and pre-visual work of Melancholia.
The Visual Style (10:11): Lars von Trier and Manual Alberto Claro discuss the look and cinematography of Melancholia.
The Universe (4:25): Visual effects supervisor Peter Hjorth and astrophysicist Michael J.D. Linden discuss the technicals and scientific aspects used in the film.
HDNet: A Look at Melancholia (5:06): This standard piece uses clips and interviews to promote Melancholia.