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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 6 January 2014
Impossible? Well, this is what Lars Von Trier achieves in "Melancholia"; the dogged adherence to social tradition explored by Thomas Vinterberg's drama is successfully blended with Tarkovsky's bleak existential contemplation of annihilation.

The glue that binds is melancholia or loss of purpose. Justine's deteriorating condition is disfunctional only within the regularities of a human sphere. However, as everything is placed under an ever-increasing threat from the approach of a rogue planet, her disconnection from normal social and emotional concerns becomes a strength rather than a weakness and indeed the only rational response to such a disaster. Justine makes one final gesture of reconciliation; she constructs of a "Magic Cave" to reassure her nephew and calm her, by now, hysterical sister. In doing so, she makes up for all the previous pain: when all Earthly life is about to end there is no time left to qualify our relationships.

In her depression, Justine believes the Earth is evil; others would project their fears on to the planet named after the title of the film. In truth, these worlds simply exist, journeying through space until a chance encounter destroys them both ... Von Trier's beautiful film reminds us the event would hold no significance without the value we attach to our relationships, our consciousness of nature in general, and thus to life itself.
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on 4 May 2013
I feel sorry for two groups of people: those who have seen this film and don't appreciate it and those who have never seen it. Personally, I think this is one of the best films of the last few years and my favourite Lars von Trier film, nudging Dogville Dogville [DVD]into second place.

The film is beautiful to watch, intelligent, thought-provoking and a true original. I will probably wear out my copy soon as I can watch it over and over; there's always something new to discover and wonder at.

Unlike any other film you'll ever see and a paradigm shift from the director's other work.

If you don't appreciate it, perhaps you weren't the intended audience.
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on 14 February 2013
My favourite film in a very long time [probably since South Park the Movie]. Visually gorgeous, I have watched it on Blu-Ray but am desperate to see it in the cinema. Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Charlotte Rampling are impeccable. And it is hard to think of another film that coldly strips away our comforting distractions from death such as science, marriage, work, shopping - and indeed art and culture - but does it so beautifully. And with an ending that despite its complete rejection of hope or self-deception, still feels utterly human and real. A work of art.
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on 2 March 2014
This is a very unsettling portrayal of depression and mental isolation. The acting and writing are excellent and I haven't met anyone who hasn't responded strongly to it. The cinematography has remained in my memory as the most striking and touching imagery I think I have ever seen in a film - on a par with Ingmar Bergman's handling of these subjects. My favourite part of this film is the genius choice of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde as the soundtrack. This absolutely makes the film. Nothing else could communicate deep, almost unbearable, sadness and the surreal, disturbing sense of uncanny.
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on 8 March 2015
I have followed Lars Von Trier for the last 40 years as one of my top favourite directors, ever since I saw one of his early shorts in the 70’s. Highly admired for being a director of immense creativity, originality and vision, Von Trier is also renowned for his daring in addressing challenging issues and taboo subjects through his prolific work. A filmmaker who never makes a movie which is similar in character to one that he has previously made, he is one of those few artists who have notably and significantly contributed to the expansion of the boundaries of cinema.

‘Melancholia’ is yet another great instance of Von Trier’s ceaseless passion in creating a new movie that surpasses what faithful fans might expect from him. However this time, it is actually quite personal in that the film takes on a subject the director himself is concerned with. Melancholia is a mental condition which appears now to be quite common, particularly amongst those who live in the industrialised parts of the world. Considered as a precursor to more debilitating mental illnesses such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder, the condition may be hereditary, although childhood trauma may also cause it in adults.

I was surprised to learn that Von Trier himself is suffering from clinical depression, form an interview with the director on this DVD. He is not the only famous person who suffers from this life wrecking illness or from its twin, bipolar disorder, but a number of other celebrities like Stephan Fry and Freddie Flintoff. As it is the case with almost all mental illnesses, these conditions are not fully understood by most ordinary people, making them react unfavourably or, in extreme cases, unsympathetically to the often bizarre behaviour of the sufferers.

‘Melancholia’ therefore is a noteworthy contribution in an accessible and enjoyable form to the general knowledge of these widely misunderstood illnesses, which might become even more common in the future, as a result of the stressful and materialistic lifestyles of a majority of us in the west as well as of increasing numbers in the east.

In developing this enlightening theme, the writer-director Von Trier adopts a lucidly romantic tone, which readily makes the film highly engaging and satisfying, despite the dark subject matter that it addresses. The script cleverly uses an impending catastrophe of the earth colliding with a rogue planet called ’Melancholia’ as an underlying ploy to keep the audience bemused and arrested throughout, thereby facilitating the well rounded characterisations to merit our affections. To ensure that the film is not going to be taken as a mere disaster flick, the director unravels the catastrophe at the very outset, in a visually stunning and captivating, ultra-slow-motion overture or a prelude that is set to Wagner’s blistering ‘Tristan and Isolde’, and thereby effectively setting the romantic tone for the rest of the movie. The visualisations used in this prologue are not entirely computer generated, but are derived from real imagery by beautifully integrating CG elements.

Strikingly, the prologue is in lightly blue tinted, natural colours while the two chapters of the main story which follow are yellow-orange tinted and blue tinted respectively. This is to aid the contrasting characters of the two sisters who are the protagonists of this moving tale: Justine, the troubled, childlike and otherworldly sufferer of melancholia, who ends up with clinical depression; and Claire, the mature, caring and strong one, who is seemingly in control of her successful life. The former believes that ‘earth is evil, and no one is going to miss it’ if destroyed in the impending disaster, while the latter has everything to lose.

As I know from my own experience of the illness, for a depression sufferer, the end of the world would be a welcome relief from the endless suffering that is life. For the majority of us who love life though, it would be a real catastrophe to which their reaction would be unfathomable. The genius of this film lies in the use of this contrast between otherworldly and worldly perception of life by two groups of the same species, and thereby bringing home the truth that human evolution no longer is just the survival of the fittest as it was 10,000 years ago, but also the survival of the most intellectual, particularly in the digital age that we now live in.

Von Trier employs handheld capture in the sequences that follow the overture to give a docudrama feel to them. The performances are rock solid in all cases as expected from such a talented cast, but it is noteworthy that Kirsten Dunst’s demanding and challenging role as Justine is the best she has delivered so far, proving that this much loved actress has now come of age.

Melancholia is a film that is worth revisiting time and again, because it is full to the brim of tweaks, twists and visual treats which take a lot more than just one viewing to appreciate. It further confirms my long held belief that Lars Von Trier is a true master of his craft.

April 2012
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on 3 February 2012
This is a difficult starkly beautiful meditation on melancholia (the old clinical picture rather than more modern conception of severe depression) and the inescapability of death. The wedding of Justine forms the first act as the planet Melancholia appears from behind the sun...a wonderful metaphor which anyone familiar with myth, alchemy and the works of Jung, Campbell and Hillman would appreciate...just as Justine's attempts to mask her illness and 'smile' at her wonderful wedding fail and lead to disintegration with caustic discontent and sabotage. The second act finds Justine being cared for by her sister and wealthy husband who presents a positivistic illision of hope as the planet moves nearer to earths orbit. The ending, with the suicide of the husband and the construction of the willow branches as the planet looms nearer is gripping and moving. A previous reviewer has commented that the lack of tv, radio broadcasts, other 'people' ect was bemusing. I think these facts added to the film and focused it rather than descending into stereotypical hollywood 'hysteria'. A powerful film with a powerful message about human fragility and the paralysing inescapable existential awareness of death and annihilation. Loved it :)
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Melancholia is an utterly original, borderline pretentious, but occasionally stunningly beautiful take on the old end-of the world scenario.

The extended opening sequence, employing extreme slow-motion effects and astronomical imagery is gorgeous to behold, every scene from which could be hung in The Tate.

This leads into Justine's story (Kirsten Dunst), which cleverly parallels her inner melancholy with the approach of Earth's aptly named nemesis. The message I took from Part 1 is that humans tend to focus on trivia whilst failing to observe the bigger picture. Things gather pace with Part Two - Claire. Here, the focus switches to Justine's sister (superbly played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) as she attempts to balance her life as a wife, mother and sister/nursemaid with her growing feelings of impending doom.

It all sounds pretty grim and depressing doesn't it? Any yet, somehow, the film manages to be, well if not exactly uplifting, at least stirring and inspiritional about the human spirit. At 135 minutes, Melancholia threatens on occasion to overstay its welcome, but stay the course and you will be rewarded and, believe me, many scenes will remain with you for a long time. On Blu-ray it all looks magnificent and the audio, which includes a Wagnerian score, is suitably grandiose. Interviews, making-of and a trailer completes the package.

Whilst I found much to enjoy here, Melancholia will clearly not be to everyone's taste and, as apocalyptic movies go, Melancholia is about as far removed from say 2012 as you can get. If you are a patient soul and are happy to sacrifice action for more profound and contemplative material, then Melancholia is worth adding to your collection. 3.5 stars seems about right.
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on 5 February 2014
A little bit creepy, could happen or could it not?
A beautifull story, beautifully filmed, a wonderfull Kirsten Dunst and of course Wagners Tristan and Isolda, the appropreate music I think
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on 9 October 2015
I've been out of action for a while and have spent a lot of my recovery re-watching old favourites.

I've now watched this film three times now, and it gets better each time. Good to see Kirsten Dunst in a film that showcases her considerable talent. She is excellent, as Charlotte Gainsbourg; the whole cast in fact. And the juxtaposition of two such physically different women being sisters adds another dimension to the story and works beautifully.

Some reviewers have commented that the film is self indulgent - let's be honest; most movies are to an extent, but that doesn't necessarily matter. For me, it certainly didn't in this instance. I think it is Lars von Triers' best film to date.
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on 15 December 2011
This is one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen. Just the opening sequence is jaw-dropping with the sheer range of images and breath-taking camerawork. The plot of the film is quite complex divided between the two main female leads and also between the twin themes of the state of a human mind in deep depression and a sci-fi story of planets colliding. I was gripped throughout and experienced a range of emotions from many laugh out loud moments to spine-chilling fear and foreboding. Loved the performances from a star-studded cast and I'll remember this film long after I've forgotten most of those I've seen in recent years.
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