Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgård, Brady Corbet, Cameron Spurr, Charlotte Rampling, Jesper Christensen, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, Kiefer Sutherland
Written by: Lars von Trier
Directed by: Lars von Trier
MPAA Rating: R for some graphic nudity, sexual content and language
Running Time: 136
Date: 05/18/2011

Melancholia (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Planet 'B'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Controversial Danish director Lars von Trier has long probed the darkest of places, most notably those surrounding the social and sexual power of women, but now he takes on nothing less than the end of the world itself. Ironically, in this most dire of moments, his latest heroine also seems to find her greatest moment of triumph: reaching out to another human being in greater need than herself.

After a prologue showing some strange atmospheric phenomena, the movie's first part shows Justine (Kirsten Dunst) on her wedding day, marrying the kindhearted Michael (Alexander Skarsgard). Over the course of the evening, she grows increasingly moody and upset, and begins alienating everyone around her. The second part occurs some time later, as Justine's condition has worsened and she comes to live with her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). A rogue planet, Melancholia, is seemingly on a collision course with earth, though Claire's husband (Kiefer Sutherland) asserts that it will be a near miss. As events turn darker and grimmer, Justine finds herself drawn to Claire's young son, perhaps looking for one final human connection.

As a drama, Melancholia often goes over the top, most notably in its super slow-mo prologue. It also includes little moments of welcome, but misplaced humor. As science fiction, it's obscure and inert; the threatening planet is little more than a vague theory and a convenient plot device. But as a work of art that evokes a strong emotional response, the movie succeeds wildly. It's impossible not to be moved in a profound way by the small events that take place within the larger one.

Magnolia has released a Blu-Ray of stunning quality; Mr. von Trier does not provide a commentary track, but does appear in a little series of featurettes about the film. There are also several trailers for other Magnolia releases.

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