‘Melancholia’ Review


Director: Lars Von Trier

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsboroug. and Keifer Sutherland

Plot:  On her wedding night, a young woman notices an anomaly in the night sky. It turns out to be a rogue planet dubbed Melancholia which seems to be on a collision course with Earth. As it nears us, the young woman’s mental state begins to unravel so she moves in with her sister and astronomer husband.


The title of the film literally refers to the on-coming planet of the story, but it is also the name of the depression that Kirsten Dunst’s character suffers from. I have no real world experience with depression, but from what I understand, Dunst performance was daringly honest depiction. It is not just sadness, but a handicap that stops you from enjoying or appreciating anything. It is a condition that attacks you physically, not just emotionally and mentally, causing you to feel numb, paralyzed, and nauseous (among other things). I think Dunst usually wears her emotions on her sleeve, but the condition calls for subtlety. No fear or anger or happiness. She is just there. However, she figures out how to make her glazed look speak to us.

It is a visually stunning film. It begins like a slowly morphing painting as we see Melancholia move through the universe getting closer to Earth. The celestial body is dangerous, but appears harmless. It is slow and graceful. This interstellar ballet sets the tone of the entire movie. The organized chaos of the wedding changes the pace slightly, but the actors are able to embody the tone well. They are a family of sideways glances, eccentric and secret behavior, and egotistic power moves and showboating that make for a knotted piece of frustration that resets the audience mind. And of course, the old adage of “world’s colliding” is hard to escape during that sequence. The rest of the movie returns to that graceful and powerful tone slowly untying our frustrations yet never putting us at ease. In fact, it does the complete opposite. The brakes slow the movie down to a crawl and give the actors a chance to shine. While Dunst steals the show, Charlotte Gainsborugh and Keifer Sutherland excel as there upper crust, milquetoast family.

I did not really go looking for much symbolism or meaning in Melancholia. There are a few analogies that seem introduced yet unexplored, but it is a rather straightforward film. It sets out to paint a picture of the human condition in an impossible scenario. It is a combination of different raw emotions and complex family drama that drives the plot while the overall science fiction elements are left off the table.

EIGHT out of TEN