This is not the case in the latest offering from Lars von Trier, Melancholia. By way of of a visually arresting introduction, viewers are informed that despite any doubts characters in the film might have about the impending destruction of Earth by a rogue planet (also referred to as “Melancholia”), the Earth is going to be destroyed, and there will be no survivors.
Spoilers now set aside, von Trier gets down to the business of showing a portrait of how the world will end for one family. It appears the world will end very stylishly, indeed.
The film begins with an hour-long scene of a wedding of depressed Justine (Kirsten Dunst), which perfectly and excruciatingly captures her descent into a state of melancholia.
The second half is increasingly otherworldly, and mostly concerns Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) waiting with her family for the impending apocalypse.
Von Trier especially emphasizes the connection between protagonist Justine’s descent into depression during the first half, and Claire’s psychological unraveling of during the second.
Melancholia is most successful as an examination of depression – notably in its depiction of the gradual narrowing of the world and a sense of disconnectedness.
However, the film suffers from a few flaws, mostly in the second half, where it is somewhat more concerned with genre-bending. These include one or two completely baffling moments, such as Justine’s semi-credible announcement that she has psychic abilities. Ultimately, this is a worthwhile if somewhat odd film, though its tendencies towards sparseness will likely leave audiences wanting to see more.