30 August 2011
Agent provocateur, enfant terrible, wind-up merchant…call him what you will, enigmatic auteur Lars von Trier is fond of the big statement. Thankfully, after his embarrassing - and firmly tongue in cheek – comments at Cannes earlier this year, all of his visionary zeal and intellectual bombast has gone on screen for this the follow-up to the controversial, contentious and largely misunderstood Antichrist.
It doesn’t get much bigger than the end of the world and Melancholia deals with this in a fantastically moving and powerful way. The apocalyptic tour de force features an impressive cast, with star turns from Charlotte Gainsbourg, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling and above all, Kirsten Dunst, who has never been better.
From the incendiary extended opening montage sequence Melancholia looks and feels like little else. From then on the film is clearly divided between the psyches of Dunst’s Justine and Gainsbourg’s Claire, with the first part recalling von Trier’s fellow Dane Thomas Vinterberg’s family tragedy Festen. The second part goes deeper into pseudo science-fiction territory. Von Trier’s strange and beautiful figures dance around a doomed planet asking questions and providing no easy answers. It is without doubt von Trier’s most honest work. It is also his best. It comes from and speaks to the soul.