Review: Melancholia (NYFF 2011)

As someone with an appreciation for a more literal approach to storytelling, taking to Lars von Trier’s style of work has never been easy. However, with <I>Melancholia</I>, von Trier finds an absolutely impeccable middle ground, providing the audience with a uniquely sensible tale, but not holding back when dousing the piece with his authorial expressivity, giving us something that’s tremendously stirring.

Broken up into two sections, the first part of <I>Melancholia</I> focuses on Justine (Kirsten Dunst). Right after marrying Michael (Alexander Skarsgård), the newlyweds head out to her sister Claire’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) estate for a majestic night of fine food, lavish décor and wholesome traditions. Justine should be as happy as ever, especially when her boss and husband’s father, Jack (Stellan Skarsgård), turns his toast into a job promotion announcement, but just a short while into the party, a familiar predicament taints the happiest night of her life, a chronic case of depression.

Part two is dedicated to Claire, her family and a planet called Melancholia. A planet that once hid behind the sun, Melancholia is now on the move, missing Mercury, Venus and, hopefully, Earth. Claire’s husband, John (Kiefer Sutherland), assures her the planet will pass right by as scientists suggest, but a foreboding sensation still looms.

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