.

Melancholia

Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgård

Directed by Lars von Trier
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3.5
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
November 10, 2011

At this point, Danish director Lars von Trier's latest cinematic provocation has been unfortunately overshadowed by his comments when Melancholia debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May: "What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little bit."

Stupid? Misguided? A bad joke? Probably all of the above. That's von Trier – from Breaking the Waves to Antichrist, he delights in stirring things up. Are his remarks the end of the world? It's your call. But the end of the world is surely coming in Melancholia, a potent beauty of a film. As Justine (Kirsten Dunst) prepares for her wedding at a mansion owned by her sister Claire (a superb Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her know-it-all husband, John (Kiefer Sutherland), the planet Melancholia is on a crash course with Earth. Von Trier opens with a surreal hint of things to come, set to Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde," in which Justine – in her bridal gown – seems to sleepwalk through images of brutal destruction. It's then that the director reverts to Justine's wedding to Michael (Alexander Skarsgård), her battles with her bickering, divorced parents, expertly played by John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling, and the palpable tension between Justine and Claire.

The luminous Dunst deservedly won the Best Actress prize at Cannes. Her incomparable performance, a slow accumulation of moods from despair to euphoria, never strikes a false note. In the film's final section, a few weeks after the wedding, Claire dominates the proceedings as Justine gives in to depression. It's here that Gainsbourg shatters Claire's careful mask of calm to show the raging insecurities beneath, prompted by concern for her young son and her husband's pompous insistence that disaster will be averted. Von Trier draws us inexorably into the web of these characters. He loses us in a dream of his own devising. That's filmmaking. Now if he'd only learn to shut up at press conferences.

Related
Off the Cuff with Peter Travers: Kirsten Dunst

prev
Movie Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com