Melancholia (2011 film)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Melancholia is a 2011 science fiction drama film written and directed by Lars von Trier, starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland. The narrative revolves around two sisters in dispute while the life of the planet is threatened as a large foreign body approaches, portending a deadly collision. The film was a Danish majority production through Zentropa, with international co-producers in Sweden, France, Germany and Italy. It premiered at the 64th Cannes Film Festival in May 2011.
The film begins with the destruction of Earth and then jumps back in time. The story will be about two sisters, Justine and Claire (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg), who are becoming increasingly more distant from each other. There will be a wedding during the first part of the film between Justine and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård). Soon after the wedding Justine becomes melancholic, which makes her stay calm when Earth is threatened by a collision with another planet that has recently emerged from behind the sun, while Claire, on the other hand, becomes fearful of what is to come. Trier has said that he considers all of his previous films to end happily, and that this will be the first with an unhappy ending.
- Kirsten Dunst as Justine
- Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire
- Alexander Skarsgård as Michael
- Brady Corbet as Tim
- Cameron Spurr as Leo
- Charlotte Rampling as Gaby
- Jesper Christensen as Little Father
- John Hurt as Dexter
- Stellan Skarsgård as Jack
- Udo Kier as Wedding Planner
- Kiefer Sutherland as John
The film premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened in competition on 18 May. The press conference after the screening gained considerable publicity. The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Roxborough wrote that "Von Trier has never been very P.C. and his Cannes press conferences always play like a dark stand-up routine, but at the Melancholia press conference he took it to another level, tossing a grenade into any sense of public decorum." Trier joked about working on a hardcore pornographic film which would star Dunst and Gainsbourg, and when asked about the relation between the influences of German Romanticism in the film and Trier's own German heritage, the director made jokes about Jews and Nazis, said he understood Adolf Hitler and admired the work of architect Albert Speer, and jokingly announced that he was a Nazi. The Cannes Film Festival first issued an official apology for the remarks the same day and clarified that Trier is not a Nazi or an antisemite, then declared the director "persona non grata" the following day.
The film is set to be released in Denmark on 26 May 2011 through Nordisk Film.
Sukhdev Sandhu wrote from Cannes in The Daily Telegraph that the film "at times comes close to being a tragi-comic opera about the end of the world", and that "The apocalypse, when it comes, is so beautifully rendered that the film cements the quality of fairy tale that its palatial setting suggests." About the acting performances, Sandhu wrote: "All of them are excellent here, but Dunst is exceptional, so utterly convincing in the lead role – trouble, serene, a fierce savant – that it feels like a career breakthrough. ... Meanwhile, Gainsbourg, for whom the end of the world must seem positively pastoral after the horrors she went through in Antichrist, locates in Claire a fragility that ensures she's more than a whipping girl for social satire." Sandhu brought up one reservation in the review, in which he gave the film the highest possible rating of five stars: "there is, as always with Von Trier's work, a degree of intellectual determinism that can be off-putting; he illustrates rather than truly explore ideas."
Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, called the film "clunky" and "tiresome", judging it to be "conceived with[out] real passion or imagination", and not "well written or convincingly acted in any way at all", and gave it two stars out of a possible five.