Melancholia ★★★★

I’ve liked, though not always enjoyed. Lars von Trier’s offerings over the past few years but for some reason, likely the combination of length and expectation, Melancholia escaped me. With his new film due for festival runs this winter, the time seemed ripe to catch up with his 2011 offering. Why did I wait so long?

Undeniably beautiful, Melancholia is also my favourite of von Trier’s works. It’s his exploration of a woman suffering through depression on her wedding day is hard to watch but there’s a real sense that the director completely understands what it’s like to suffer through the debilitating illness. Kirsten Dunst has never been better that she is here, showing her range in dealing with both the highs and lows of mental illness. The second half is equally fascinating, this time focusing on Charlotte Gainsbourg as she deals with the her anxieties about the end of the world which may or may not be coming. The two stories share so much in common but they also highlight the differences not only between the two women but of how two individuals in different emotional states deal with tragedy.

The wordless opening sequence is spectacular, as are some of the exchanges (I’m particularly fond of Dunst telling her boss Stellan Skarsgård exactly how she feels) and the small tidbits inserted throughout (Udo Kier covering his face from Dunst every time he walks by her because she ruined his perfect wedding). It’s a work of art.