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Chicago International Film Festival 2011

Melancholia Directed by: Lars von Trier Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland Running Time: 2 hrs 15 mins Rating: R Release Date: November (Chicago)

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PLOT: A planet named "Melancholia" is expected to crash into ours. A young bride (Dunst) has her wedding day, and she is not too thrilled about it.

WHO'S IT FOR? If you like von Trier, don't miss this - even if it's a toss-up as to whether this will make you "happy" or not. If you like visually beautiful movies, Melancholia is one of them. Don't come to this movie expecting to find an enjoyable experience.


Lars von Trier’s latest film, Melancholia is the definition of a broody movie. Its title comes from a planet that is on its way to crash into our earth. But with the way in which von Trier imagines our planet, it seems like Melancholia has already arrived, and the Danish director couldn’t be any happier.

Kirsten Dunst won herself “Best Actress” praise at Cannes for her performance in this movie. This must be because she embodies the movie in her very strange character – as Justine, unhappy bride with more mental problems than we may know, she’s Melancholia the person. She finds beauty in sadness, speaks little amount of words, and just waits for the end to come with a romantic sense.

Using a powerful moment from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” as his musical motif, von Trier romanticizes the end of the world with grinning abandon, making us see happiness in sadness in reverse colors.

Oddly, the script’s dialogue lacks much punch with its dialogue. Conversations between characters aren’t very strong, and tend to be more on the dull side. It’s clear that von Trier spent more focus on his imagery and his mood than making his characters say anything. Watching Melancholia you’re bound to remember what the characters do far more than anything of what the characters say.

Outside of Dunst, Melancholia features a decent cast of recognizable faces. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Justine’s opposite, and a person who is actually afraid about the end of the world. Kiefer Sutherland plays Justine’s brother-in-law, who knows a lot about planets and is considered to be telling the truth when he says that Melancholia will be passing right by planet Earth. Alexander Skarsgaard plays Justine’s husband, with none of the fangs or anger we might have seen from his previous roles, especially in Straw Dogs.

Melancholia starts off gorgeously, just like von Trier’s Antichrist before it. As bombastic classical music carries us to a place unknown, so do von Trier’s visuals, which use captures unshakable images in gorgeous slow motion. Each shot in this sequence is worthy of being framed like a painting. And while this moment sets the mood for the rest of the movie that follows after it, this is still the high point of Melancholia.

Melancholia pummels audiences with its mirthful sadness and its length. It offers a unique experience, but when compared to his previous foray into darkness, Antichrist it certainly comes up short of a satisfactory experience.


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