don't mention the war

DIR/WRI: Lars von Trier • PRO: Meta Louise Foldager, Louise Vesth • DOP: Manuel Alberto Claro • ED: Morten Højbjerg, Molly Marlene Stensgaard • DES: Jette Lehmann • CAST: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgård, John Hurt

2009’s Antichrist was the closest that director Lars von Trier had ever come to an out-and-out horror movie, and it was a movie von Trier claimed helped him through with his depression. This year sees his first approach at sci-fi, and the making of the movie is supposed to have helped lead actress Kirsten Dunst with her own bout with depression. And by the end credits, every person in the audience may feel their own need to seek professional help, such is the profoundly depressing nature of the movie.

Opening with a foresight/dream about the end of the world, we soon find ourselves at the wedding of Kirsten Dunst and Alexander Skarsgård, and in attendance are Dunst’s parents Charlotte Rampling and John Hurt, her sister Charlotte Gainsbourg and brother-in-law Kiefer Sutherland, her boss Stellan Skarsgård and his nephew/assistant Brady Corbet, and each of these characters bring their own set of problems and neurosis to the wedding table. Too bad that Dunst’s character notices none of this, as she herself is showing signs of extreme clinical depression, her tipping point into an almost catatonic state being the wedding itself. In the background of all this is the planet Melancholia, which is hurtling towards our star system, on a ‘Will it? Won’t it?’ possible collision course with Earth.

Hollywood would’ve filled this movie with exploding landmarks, but von Trier uses the possible apocalypse merely as set dressing for a very intimate and real account of one woman’s mental breakdown and how it affects those that she loves. Dunst is a revelation in the role, possibly the best she’s ever been in her career, and the rest of the large cast bring their individual A-game. Von Trier also fills the movie to the brim with beautiful and stark imagery, particularly some night scenes with the cast bathed in the white light of the Moon and the blue light of Melancholia.

But there’s no getting around the fact that while the movie is very good, it’s far from entertaining, and possibly the worst date movie since… well… Antichrist. If you do go see it, maybe come home to fifteen back-to-back episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, just to lighten the mood.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

Melancholia is released on 30th September 2011

Melancholia– Official Website




  1. I know it was depressing to watch throughout but I thought the ending was strangely uplifting. No spoilers here but I thought it was an uncharacteristically warm ending.

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