Ahhh. Lar Von Trier.
The ex Enfent Terible that was the darling of the critics only to upset Bjork and have them pretty much universally turn against him.
This movie has largely been slated by the critics despite Kirsten Dunst’s best actress award at Cannes.
Me? I loved it. His best film in a long time and up there with both Breaking the Waves and Kingdom.
It’s far from Dogme, that’s for sure, with its absolutely thunderous score from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde being one of the movies main focal points. It’s a powerfully moving musical theme that picks out the more arresting moments in a film that is bracketed by ‘epic’ whilst the meat of the sandwich is a languidly paced examination of the relationship between two sisters as they deal with one of their depressive tendencies.
Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg both put in excellent shifts as the (highly unlikely it has to be said) sisters. I’ll be honest, you do have to make quite a leap to see this pair as real life sisters but once you are over that you can just enjoy the film for what it is.
Dunst plays a role that could have taken her into the field of major histrionics and self searching angst, but she carries it off with such a lightness of touch that she really does grab the audience sympathetically, Gainsbourg is a seriously good actress in a fine role well suited to her personality. She too could have overplayed several moments in the movie, but holds back suitably.
The men, for once in a Von Trier film, have the less sympathetic roles. Keifer Sutherland as the partner of Gainsbourg and father of their child spends more time acting like a boy scout leader that husband fearing the end of civilisation as he plots fun and games with his young son played sweetly by Cameron Spurr.
Like Mallick’s recent Tree of Life (with which several comparisons can be made) it’s an oddly compartmentalized affair (the aforementioned bookends are high octane sci-fi – initially in the vein of 2001 Space Oddessy and latterly in the style of Danny Boyle’s vastly underrated Sunshine). It’s in the main meat of the film that styles particularly diverge.
The first Act is Dunst’s story as she endures her deeply dysfunctional wedding day – way too much hand held camera for my liking that contrived the action a little but gave Dunst the chance to develop her story of depression – John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling as her deeply unpleasant parents get really nice cameo roles to play around with.
Act two is her sister’s story, here the cinematography is much more relaxed and often breathtaking.
Dunst continues to draw the plaudits as she emerges from her depressed catatonia as the world heads rapidly towards apocalypse in the shadow of a giant planet headed for collision with earth.
It is the planet, Melanchonia, that gives the movie its name and its theme.
For some the whole movie, at 135 minutes, may be too long. For me, it was perfectly paced and the slight twist at the end of the tale was deeply satisfying and ultimately enthralling.
Strong recommendation. 8/10 maybe 8.5.