Melancholia starts with a number of very slo-mo shots, nothing making particular sense – at this point, even if I was to try and describe them, such as a horse falling down backwards, a woman walking across a golf course with her child on her back and her feet going down into the ground, and Kirsten Dunst holding up her hands to see electricity shooting out of them, until eventually, a huge planet crashes into – and through – the Earth, wiping it out.
Deep bass rumbles kick in and the words “Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia” appear. And then the film proper starts…
“Part 1: Justine” opens up and she (Kirsten Dunst) is travelling with her new husband, Michael (Alexander Skarsgård), in a stretch limo down a winding road which is clearly not going to work out. When they eventually arrive, about two hours late, Justine is captivated by a red star in the sky. She asks scientist brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland) to identify it and he replies that it’s Antares, the main star of the Scorpio constellation.
They go in and the wedding dinner takes place, during which speeches are made and after Justine’s father, Dexter (John Hurt) starts to embarass ex-wife Gaby (Charlotte Rampling), the latter stands up and says she doesn’t believe in marriage, so that’s why she wasn’t at the wedding. Oooh, bit of a row developing there.
This part shows moments of annoying relatives mixing in with the first moments of a new and burgeoning marriage and the fact that Justine just doesn’t appear at all happy at her own wedding, but what’s behind the anguish of this advertising executive?
Then comes “Part 2: Claire” and she (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is talking about a planet called Melancholia which she keeps thinking is going to collide with Earth, yet John tells her it hasn’t hit the other planets that it passed by and isn’t scheduled to collide with our own, either.
In this segment, Justine is completely different. She’s sleepy all the time – almost hypnotic, for reasons which will become clear when you watch it – and Claire can’t even help her to take a bath to wake her up. They all sit down to dinner for the meatloaf which Claire has made, but she cannot take a single bite and retires to bed. Their son, Leo (Cameron Spurr) goes to Justine and tells her about Melancholia, which he says has been hiding behind the sun until now.
As the planet gets closer and closer to Earth, Claire becomes increasingly anxious about it, even to the point of searching online and printing out “Earth and Melancholia’s Dance of Death”, about how it will circle our planet, according to its rotation, and hit us squarely on the back of the head.
Overall, Melancholia is a film to sit back and relax to, and let what happens happen. Yes, it’s slow moving, but if you enjoy that sort of film then this is a must. Sure, there could be more to the plot, but then that is mostly a slice-of-life drama that plays on while the fate of the world may or may not be affected in the long run.
I rarely go to the cinema these days, but I wish I’d gone to see this one on the big screen.
Presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, the picture is simply unsurpassable and is striking throughout with no flaws whatsoever. I can see how it would look incredible on the big screen and I’d love to see it that way. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
Audio-wise, the film is presented in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio (for which I have a DD5.1 setup) and for most of the time is a dialogue-based piece, but a number of times it’ll drop in a blast of Wagner as well as deep bass rumblings as the planet Melancholia rears its ugly head…
The extras are as follows:
- The Making of Melancholia: a four-part piece, mixing in film clips with chat mostly from the cast and crew, starting with About Melancholia (11:29) where the discussion of the movie goes very deep, moreso than I can describe in a review because it would give spoilers.
Then comes the Visual Effects (6:43), which makes for a particularly stunning extra; followed by The Universe (4:11) which discusses the realistic physics of the movie; and The visual style (9:33) where Lars Von Trier tells us why he chose Wagner’s music to go with his movie along with plenty of other treats to discover.
- Filmbyen: The New Mecca of cinema (54:06): Filmbyen is a cinema-town created by Lars Von Trier and producer Peter Aalbek Jensen. They founded together a company which regroups all the cinema business industry. The documentary retraces the Filmbyen story, how it functions and the artistic and economic issues that arise.
The place itself is a former military base which houses many film-related companies and many films and TV series have been shot there.
- Interviews: Three here. Brief Q&As (without the Q, oddly) with Lars Von Trier (6:11), one with Kirsten Dunst (3:48) and one with Charlotte Gainsbourg (4:39).
- Trailer (2:03): In 2.35:1 and, for a trailer, it doesn’t spoil things, which is quite a rarity.
Have a look at it here:
The menus feature slo-mo animation from the opening scenes, accompanied by the oft-featured music from the film, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Chaptering is the usual Optimum piss-take with just 12 across the 135-minute film. On the plus side, there are subtitles in English.
For a change, there are no trailers before the main menu, however.
Running time: 135 minutes
Date of release: January 23rd 2012
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (D-Cinema)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Lars Von Trier
Producers: Meta Louise Foldager and Louise Vesth
Screenplay: Lars Von Trier
Music: Manuel Alberto Claro
Justine: Kirsten Dunst
Claire: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Michael: Alexander Skarsgård
John: Kiefer Sutherland
Dexter: John Hurt
Jack: Stellan Skarsgård
Gaby: Charlotte Rampling
Tim: Brady Corbet
Leo: Cameron Spurr
Little Father: Jesper Christensen
Wedding planner: Udo Kier
Michael’s Father: James Cagnard
Michael’s Mother: Deborah Fronko
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.