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Melancholia (2011)

Running Time: 130 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

Post-apocalyptic depressi-drama Melancholia has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently – namely for Danish oddball Director Lars Von Trier’s ill-advised Nazi sympathising at the Cannes Film Festival. This really is a shame as Melancholia is a compelling end-of-the-worlder that’s far better than many recent big-budget efforts.

Melancholia follows the fate of one seriously messed up family as the end of the world quietly approaches. Justine (Dunst) is a depressed bride with something seemingly huge weighing her down as she implodes on her wedding day. Claire (Gainsbourg) is her sister trying to keep things together while her husband (Sutherland) looks forward to the appearance of a giant planet in Earth’s atmosphere with relish.

Kirsten Dunst is rightfully stealing the plaudits for her loony turn as Justine but she is more than ably joined onscreen by Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg. As an added bonus for some, with this being a European art-house film of sorts, you do get to see Kirsten Dunst’s ladyparts for absolutely no reason. Shame about another embarrassing British child actor and a few fleeting appearances of paperthin characters with the chief culprits being Stellan Skarsgard’s massively over-the-top PR executive and Brady Corbet’s creepy protege.

Melancholia is completely different from the usual apocalyptic stock. A string of characters are not introduced and summarised in a cliched nutshell within a few minutes of pre-amble. Instead, full-bodied characterisation is the raison d’etre of Lars Von Trier’s piece.

During the first half (titled “Justine’s Story”) Melancholia can come off a little rambling and irrelevant but as it builds to a climax – one that the word “depressing” does not do justice – it really gains character and atmosphere. This is in no small part due to the excellent choice of Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde as the haunting soundtrack and some simple yet beautiful cinematography. The second half is well worth the patience needed to see the movie through.

It's Got: Beautiful cinematography, haunting soundtrack, something a little different

It Needs: Some of the characters to be fleshed out a little


An original and compelling take on the end of the world from nouveau-Nazi Lars Von Trier. Excellent acting, beautiful cinematography and a wonderful soundtrack create a haunting atmosphere. A great film – even if you do leave the cinema with all hope and positivity destroyed.