Summer Weekend Review: Melancholia

SF and fantasy often uses peculative elements metaphorically. Melancholia reworks When Worlds Collide as an art-house film about depression, with a stunning central performance by Kirsten Dunst. As summer 2017 comes to a close, we continue with our reviews of older films– this one from 2011.

Title: Melancholia

Written and directed by Lars von Trier

Kirsten Dunst as Justine
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire
Alexander Skarsgård as Michael
Brady Corbet as Tim
Cameron Spurr as Leo
Charlotte Rampling as Gaby
Jesper Christensen as Little Father
John Hurt as Dexter
Stellan Skarsgård as Jack
Udo Kier as Wedding Planner
Kiefer Sutherland as John
James Cagnard as Michael’s Father
Deborah Fronko as Michael’s Mother
Charlotta Miller as Betty 1
Claire Miller as Betty 2


A depressed woman seems best able to cope when a planetoid comes hurling towards earth.

High Points:

The final act and the conclusion are extraordinary.

Low Points:

While I concede that a significant part of the film’s effect requires our intimate knowledge of these characters and their dysfunctional relationships and emotional issues, the film still takes us to its end at quite a slow rate. Von Trier has fallen in love with his own cinematography; some of those beautiful shots linger too long.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 We have an original use of an old premise, and the opening act feels like no other wedding story I’ve encountered.

Effects: 6/6 These have been integrated naturally into a film that defies the popular Hollywood notion of SF entirely. It’s the sort of speculative film whose fans say it’s not SF.

Acting: 6/6 Dunst’s stunning performance won her the Best Actress award at Cannes, 2011. Throughout, we have natural performances of sometimes hyperbolic personalities.

Some viewers will find them too real to be entertaining. Depression isn’t attractive.

Production: 6/6 The film combines an operatic score with a stunning visual style.

Story: 5/6 Some people will disagree here, but I feel the story could have been better-told with about one-half hour excised from the film.

Emotional Response: 5/6 Audiences responses will (and have) varied according to how much the viewers feel engaged by the sisters and the film’s central concept.

Overall: 5/6 The science is a bit wonky, but the SF element functions as a metaphor here, so we must let it pass.

In total, Melancholia receives 36/42