PLOT: The wedding reception of Justine (Kirsten Dunst); a clinically depressed young woman, and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) is juxtaposed against the potential end of all life on earth, due to an imminent collision with the planet Melancholia.
REVIEW: MELANCHOLIA is Lars von Trier, through and through. By now, most of you know whether or not you'd be open to a von Trier film, and if you disliked ANTICHRIST, DANCER IN THE DARK, and his other films, you're unlikely to be won over by this bizarre apocalyptic drama. It marries the raw emotion of von Trier's Dogme films with end-of-the-world sci-fi like THE LAST WAVE, but the combination works quite well throughout.
As a person, I find von Trier's provocateur/ enfant-terrible personality more than a little insufferable (typified by his recent remarks at the Cannes premiere that made him persona-non-grata). However, as a filmmaker his talent cannot be denied, and I was pulled in to his universe the second the film started. The opening montage, set to Wagner's overture to 'Tristan & Isolde', with is a recurring motif throughout the film, is downright majestic, and I defy anyone to watch the segment and not admit that von Trier has genius in his veins.
Of course, being a von Trier film, you should not expect anything that can be even remotely classified as a genre. The film is divided in two halves. The first shows the wedding reception of Justine, and Michael. At first, they seem blissfully happy, delighting in each others company, and torturing their wedding planner (a funny Udo Kier). However, when, twenty minutes in Justine sneaks out of the reception to “relive” herself on the golf course that's handling the reception, you know not all is well in the land of von Trier.
It's shown that Justine is deeply troubled, and when she sneaks away from the reception for a second time to take a bath, it becomes doubtful whether her union with Michael will even last the night. Meanwhile, she also has to contend with her megalomaniacal boss (Stellan Skarsgard), while her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), seemingly the only sane one in the family, tries to keep everything together.
The second half of the film shifts away from Justine, and on to Claire, and her astronomer husband, John (Kiefer Sutherland), who keeps an eye on Melancholia, which he's convinced is benign. From there, things get more and more surreal, and while the 130 minute running time may have some glancing at their watches (von Trier tends to unravel his films at a leisurely pace), it's a thought provoking ride.
The last twenty minutes in particular offer some startling imagery, much of it making use of Dunst's ethereal beauty (she's never looked better). The ending is startling- and while this lacks the shock value of ANTICHRIST, it's still a devastating film. While it's certainly the type of work that demands a lot from the audience, I found it to be an occasionally stunning, altogether worthwhile film. Certainly von Trier is an acquired taste, but if it happens to be one you appreciate, this is him at his best.