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Cinema: Review - Kirsten Dunst in melancholia

Main Image: 
Kirsten Dunst as Justine and Alexander Skarsgård as husband Michael

Directed by Lars Von Trier
Certificate 15

Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars

IT’S quite hard to watch this film at first without thinking of  director Lars von Trier’s crazed performance at Cannes, when he entered Melancholia into the festival’s film competition.

This is a great shame.

I hold my nose while I recap: he made some truly horrible comments, suggesting he could relate to Adolf Hitler and was a Nazi himself.

His crass insensitivity and inability to discuss his art without falling back on a shield of eccentricity is pretty unforgiveable and showed an ignorance and immaturity that is a very sad distraction.

On top of this, I absolutely hated his last effort, the hyper-violent Antichrist, which feature scenes so eye-wincing that I still clutch myself when the film is brought up in conversation.

So I wasn’t expecting to like this effort. Yet with my jaw firmly set, I was enthralled almost from the off.

The slow opening five minutes give you a taste of the artistic pretentions von Trier holds: but then a clever study in depression follows.

We meet Justine (Kirsten Dunst) on her wedding day, but it is clear all is not quite right.

Her super-loaded brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland) has thrown open his stately home/golf club/hotel for the bash, and is fearful her illness – which is only defined as the film progresses – may ruin a day he has spent a fortune getting right.

We also discover that John is an avid amateur star-gazer, and at the same time as organising a family wedding, a new planet called Melancholia is due to make a close pass to Earth: a celestial event that very much excites him, while scaring his wife Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and his sister-in-law.

There is much to commend this film.

The performances from all are brilliant. Scenes are created as if they are paintings on a canvas.

Sight lines seem to leap from classic art works – a fact given a wink by von Trier in one scene when Justine looks through coffee table art books, apparently searching for an image.

Dunst is cast as a soothsaying Ophelia, and with few words she does it well.

This could be seen as a crock of pretentiousness by a man you wouldn’t want to share a beer with.

But for all of the noise made about it, it is actually a pretty good disaster movie.

At times it is very beautiful to look at, and it has, for all its kookiness, a very simple message.

This message may be better put in three minutes by Eric Idle’s Universe Song in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, but it’s essentially the same thing we are being told.

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