In Melancholia Lars von Trier, the enfant terrible of Danish cinema, offers his own, highly personal
version of the Apocalypse. Two sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg)
find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious planet, Melancholia, threatens
to collide into the Earth. Melancholia is divided into three parts: a magnificently surreal flash-
forward to the Apocalypse; a midsection showing the cataclysmic wedding of Justine to Michael
(Alexander Skarsgard); and a finale focusing on Claire as the end approaches and the wholly
depressed Justine 'moon tans'.
Melancholia's stunning, slow-motion prologue: a montage of dreamlike slow motion images of the
main characters and a giant planet approaching the Earth, scored to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde,
pays homage to Russian cinema great Andrei Tarkovsky, and is undoubtedly the highlight of the
The film boasts a superb cast including John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling, Kiefer Sutherland,
Alexander Skarsgard, Stellan Skarsgard, and Udo Kier (in a scene stealing role as the wedding
planner). However, it is the performances from leading women, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte
Gainsbourg that the film deserves much of its praise. As an exploration into the degradation of the
human mind, it is startlingly precise and well performed from both Dunst and Gainsbourg.
Melancholia works on just about every distinguishable level. As a visual piece, it’s staggering and
a feast for the eyes. As a character study, it’s remarkably candid and human, taking characters
that could have been very unappealing and making you sympathise with their plight. And as a
metaphor for the apocalyptic impact that kind of mental pain can have on the mind, it is both apt
and poignant. Melancholia evokes what is, in essence, the true nature of depression; claustrophobia
within existence, and is a haunting, intoxicating and humbling prophetic nightmare.