3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
One of Von Triers Best?,
This review is from: Melancholia [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
Where do you even begin with Lars von Trier? Exasperating? Enigmatic? Enthralling? Enraging? Or any other adjective beginning with "e" though having said that economical may not apply. So here we are again. Time to sit down and strap ourselves in.
Melancholia open with a sequence of evocative slow-motion dream-scape shots (woman carrying child sinking into a putting green, another woman pondering electricity sparking off her fingers, a bride marching across the screen with ropes attached to her dress - you know the usual stuff). This sequence culminates with the Earth being headbutted by another planet... the titular Melancholia. So, it's the end of the world and it's all downhill from there.
We switch to a wedding. A very posh wedding. Where we find Kirsten Dunst's Justine about to marry. However, all is not well. Familial relations are bordering on toxic and the nuptials unravel as Justine is dragged back into the depths of an apparently on-going depression. Her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) stoically tries to keep her sister's head above water. However, facing a vitriolic mother, lovable but loveless father and a (unt of a boss Justine resembles a knackered racehorse being whipped to make it across the finishing line (keep that metaphor stored away for when you watch the film).
So what do we have here. Strip aside Von Trier's mixture of art-house and realist technical fireworks and underneath you'll find a surprisingly human and humanist drama. Well drawn and, dare I say it recognisable characters, (believable is bit to much of a stretch for Von Trier) jostle for position and orbit Justine and Claire. It's an existential meditation on depression, the transience of happiness, the inevitability of finality and ultimately a thumping good family drama meets dystopian sci-fi mash-up.
Von Trier's never been short on ideas and once again he puts them front and centre. However, this time he reins himself in. There are none of the pyrotechnic shocks which nobbled Anti-Christ or the teeth-pulling irritation of Breaking the Waves. The ideas work because they are whispered not screamed. Subtle not telegraphed. Of course subtle for Von Trier is still well up the scale for other directors, yet it still somehow works. A rather pleasant surprise. Now it's time to gird my loins for Nymphomaniac Vol I & II. I have a feeling that Melancholia may just be a pleasant bump in the road.