Melancholia (2011) World Cinema Series – Denmark

Melancholia is such a beautiful movie from the first moments on. It starts with a series of pictures accompanied by the music of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. The pictures look in many cases like taken from DeviantART. Others are either inspired by or show actual paintings. I spotted one by Breughel and the poster shows Kirsten Dunst as Ophelia which could have been inspired by Millais.

Kirsten Dunst’s character Justine is an Ophelia type woman in many regards. She is highly depressed. Smiling takes more energy than walking up a mountain. She has just gotten married to Michael (Alexander Skarsgård). They arrive two hours too late to their own wedding party which has been organized by Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gaisnbourg). It is taking place in the grand estate of Claire’s husband (Kiefer Sutherland). It’s one of those stiff wedding parties in which everything is strictly organized in order to try to overshadow that nobody knows anyone and nobody is interested in anyone. But the perfect surface cracks very soon. Justine and Claire’s mother (Charlotte Rampling) isn’t one for pretending and her brutal honesty destroys what little festive spirit there is. From that moment on Justine is in free fall and not even the dreams of a lovely future that her husband tries to share with her can mend the damage. The only person who would have been able to help her is her unavailable father, a childish drunk (John Hurt).

The first part of the movie, Justine’s part, shows how she struggles, fails and finally destroys what little is left intact at the end. A more accurate depiction of severe depression and of a dysfunctional family I’ve rarely seen.

The second part is dedicated to Justine’s sister and her fear that the earth is going to be hit by the planet Melancholia. The blue planet has started to loom over the earth during the wedding party and sheds an eerie light on the garden and the surrounding forest. While the hard-headed Claire, who dreads nothing more than extinction, starts to unravel slowly when the planet comes closer, depressed Justine, who ultimately thinks that humanity would deserve destruction, becomes the strong one.

I know this isn’t a movie for everyone but I absolutely loved it. I think it’s one of Lars von Trier‘s best. It works as a whole and as a series of amazing pictures and scenes and ends in a stunning finale. The cast is great as well. I already liked Kirsten Dunst a lot in The Virgin Suicides, another of my favourite movies,  but here she is simply amazing. The other actors do a great job as well, especially Charlotte Gainsbourg. I thought it was also interesting to see Stellan Skarsgård together with his son Alexander in the same movie.

Some of the scenes will haunt me for a long time. I particularly liked all the scenes that show Justine on her own when she leaves the party to look for some quiet and peace or when hardly any one is left in the early morning and those who remain seem to be in a tired floating and melancholy after-the-party mood.

Melancholia is a contribution to Richard’s Foreign Film Festival and my World Cinema Series.

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33 thoughts on “Melancholia (2011) World Cinema Series – Denmark

    • I absolutely loved it and put it on my top favourites list right away. Right up there with David Lynch, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and a few other’s films.
      I had a lot to realte to.

  1. So good that you posted this Caroline. I wanted to see this when it was in the movies but missed it and had since forgotten about it. I really like
    Lars von Trier’s other work and this one looked intriguing and quirky. Your commentary makes me think that I will really like it. I will rent it soon!

  2. I haven’t been sure whether to watch “Melancholia” yet, but I might rent it given your vote of confidence for the movie.

    I thought Kirsten Dunst was excellent in “Crazy/Beautiful” (2001). An Independent teenage romance drama. She plays a dysfunctional, reckless young woman in love with a level-headed, studious Mexican guy. Her body movements and gestures are totally different. There’s something authentic about the movie. It’s not exactly Ken Loach, but has a good portion of friction mixed in with sweetness. After seeing that, and Virgin Suicides, I realised she is capable of far more than you know from her Hollywood movies.

    • I hope you will like and maybe review it. Let me know if you do. I find her a great actress and she is getting better all the time. I haven’t seen Crazy/Beautiful. I have to see if I can find it. It sounds like a movie I would like.

  3. A beautiful review of a beautiful film!
    I love it too, I think this is Dunst’s best interpretation, play and movie yet. As I remember it the film, it is veiled in sadness; stunning & heartbreaking.

  4. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this movie and it is on my rental list. Also, I have a World Cinema review for later this week. I find I don’t watch a lot of movies when it is warmer out. I’m more of a fall winter movie watcher.

    • Oh good, I’m looking forward to your review.
      I watch all year long but I’m not in the mood to review mediocre movies, I already do that on my movie blog because I want to cover everything I’ve seen but not here. I hope will like ti as well. It’s special.

  5. Oh, I have to see this for the cinematography alone. Thanks for the trailer, Caroline–I was on the fence about this movie, but will watch it now.
    I too thought Dunst was wonderful in Crazy/Beautiful.

    • I absolutely loved it, all of it. The cinematography is stunning but I liked the story as well. Or rather the stories. Tell me how you liked it once you’ve watched it. I need to find Crazy/Beautiful.

  6. I can’t say that I’m a Lars Von Trier fan. I know his films are really praised but after Dancer In the Dark I was never attracted to his other films.

    • If that was your first and only von Trier I understand you. I wasn’t keen on Dancer in the Dark. This is completely different. As far as Las von Trier goes it is very accessible.

  7. I didn’t know the movie is from Denmark, I thought it’s from Hollywood, judging from the cast. Is it a hollywood movie with Denmark director or is it purely Denish movie?

    I Havent seen it yet and your review makes me want to see it.

    • It’s a co-production between Denmark, Sweden, France and Germany but since the director is Danish and his movies are thought of as Danish I cheated a tiny bit. In any case this is a European, not an American movie, despite some of the actors.
      I would love to hear what you think of it.

  8. My son and his girlfriend watched Dogsville not that long ago and admired it very much. I feel I should definitely encourage them to watch this one! His girlfriend is very interested in dysfunctional families and in issues around depression, so I think it’s right up her street.

  9. I don’t know much about movies (being able to talk about them and compare to others, etc), but I actually like the films by LVT that I’ve seen. I’m so out of the loop with movies these days I was totally unfamiliar with this until you wrote about it here–now I am adding it to my Netflix queue.

    • I really hope you will like it. Tell me what you think of it. I still have all the pictures in my mind, it’s very haunting and Kerstin Dunst is so wonderful.

  10. Wonderful review, Caroline! I have never heard of this film. It looks really fascinating! I didn’t know that Kiefer Sutherland acted in movies like this. I have seen him only in action movies and action series like ’24′. Kirsten Dunst seems to be perfect actress to play the role of the depressed heroine. I somehow think of her and Julia Stiles as sisters and I think Julia Stiles might have also done well in that role. I don’t know whether I will see this movie – it looks too depressing – but I will add it to my wish list. Thanks for this wonderful review.

    • Thanks, Vishy. I know it will sound strange but I didn’t think it was depressing at all. It has such a wonderful atmosphere like being in a beautiful dream.
      I think at the beginning of his career, Kiefer Sutherland made quite a few non-action movies. Julia Stiles is an actress I like a lot as weel. She might have been a good choice too.
      He is well chosen because he is so different from the others, clearly doesn’t represent the same family.

  11. I’ve been thinking about seeing this movie, and you’ve definitely piqued my interest further. :-) I haven’t watched many movies by this director, but I liked Breaking the Waves.

    • Me too. I really liked Breaking the Waves. I’ve see one or two others which I iked far less but now this one is amazing. I hope you will let me know how you liked it.

  12. Pingback: World Cinema Series – Wrap up and Winner Announcement « Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

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