Transcript for Review: Melancholia
Kirsten Dunst stars in the new Lars Von Trier movie “Melancholia.” I’m Christy Lemire of the Associated Press.
IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY: And I’m Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of mubi.com. Since he first burst on to the international scene in 1984, Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier has re-invented himself several times over. The one thing that has remained constant is his bleak outlook and fondness for female protagonists who get abused and degraded over the course of the movie. Von Trier’s latest, MELANCHOLIA, is neatly split into two halves. The first is set during a lavish wedding reception where some of the guests are played by Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt and Stellan Skaarsgard.
Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, the depressed bride. The wedding—and its passive-aggressive guests—create a harrowing, humiliating experience for her.
The second half of the movie is a sort of science fiction drama focusing on Justine’s sister Clair, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. A planet called Melancholia has appeared in the sky and may crash into the Earth. This fits Justine’s grim worldview, but it represents a genuine crisis for the more stable Clair.
Sure, MELANCHOLIA is simplistic; the basic premise is that one woman’s depression is another one’s victory, and vice-versa. But Dunst, who won the Best Actress award at the Cannes film festival this year for her performance, inhabits her role completely. Her nuanced portrayal of depression gives depth to von Trier’s sometimes sketchy ideas. And the film’s opulence—complete with Wagner on the soundtrack—is often mesmerizing. It’s a thumbs up from me.
CHRISTY: It’s a very big thumbs up from me as well. This movie is devastatingly beautiful and so haunting, and I don’t think really simplistic at all. I think it’s very complicated in terms of its ideas. I mean the planet could be a real planet. It could be a metaphor for your only personal distress or whatever it is.
IGNATIY: Well, I think it’s both.
CHRISTY: It could be both, but also just I mean visually this is so dense and a great combination of all that Lars Von Trier does best. That really stripped down kind of claustrophobic Dogma kind of realism and then just these luscious just beautiful, over the top slow motion visuals.
IGNATIY: Well he has that really distinctive, really jittery editing style, and I think sometimes it feels like a put on, but here it really works especially during the wedding sequence because kind of these quick cuts turn into this accumulation of details, where you really, you really come to understand why this is a crisis for this character. You know how you know everything is kind of slightly pulling at her or you know prodding at her.
CHRISTY: It conveys her inner turmoil and then at the wedding as well, it’s so beautiful and decadent and then just these shocking moments. People say and do just the most inappropriate things and a lot of Von Trier’s films those feel very gratuitous, and here it absolutely makes sense in terms of conveying everyone’s increasingly deteriorating psyche.
IGNATIY: Well, I think Dunst’s performance is a big part of this. I think this is the best performance she’s ever given.
CHRISTY: One of his best films in a very long time.