Despite being a meditation on depression, Melancholia is Lars Von Trier’s warmest film yet. Minor characters, such as the wedding planner (Udo Kier) and father of the bride (John Hurt), provide an element of comedy - which prevents the film from becoming too challenging. Despite the director retrospectively dismissing the entire film as being “too commercial”, it is these touches that make it more successful than Antichrist.
Kirsten Dunst has rightfully generated a huge buzz for her portrayal of Justine. This is a character whose depression leads her to both accept the end of the world, and to optimistically look forward to it. Charlotte Gainsbourg does an equally spectacular job playing her sister, Claire. Claire is a familiar character to fans of Von Trier’s filmography. Similarly to Bjork in Dancer In The Dark and Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves, she is an optimist placed under hardship. The twist here is that her optimism is robbed much earlier, by the inevitability of the apocalypse.
It is the contrast between these characters, told in two parts, that provides a interesting new interpretation of the usual Von Trier themes. Though it may not be his best film (that is a toss up between Dogville and The Idiots) it is still a spectacular one. Essential for fans, and also a good introduction to one of cinemas greatest modern directors.