My first experience with von Trier was Breaking the Waves. I found his treatment of its lead female character genuinely vile and I jumped on the “von Trier is a misogynist” bandwagon. Since then I have pretty much ignored his output, rather an ignorant thing I suppose. I mention this because going to see Melancholia was a chance to reassess my opinion on von Trier and also witness the performance of Kirsten Dunst who won the best actress award at Cannes. This is really Dunst’s best performance so far. Quite simply she is electric.
Split into two parts Melancholia focuses on two sisters named Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Justine is an advertising copywriter who suffers from massive bouts of depression. She is getting married to Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) at a chateau owned by her sister’s amazingly rich husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) and what should be the happiest day of her life dissolves into a farce as her divorced parents, Dexter (John Hurt) and Gaby (Charlotte Rampling) snipe at each other, her boss Jack (Stellan Skarsgård) pesters Justine for a tagline to an ad campaign, John’s anger towards Gaby grows and Justine suffers a crushing bout of depression. The second part of Melancholia follows Claire as John intends to celebrate the passing of Melancholia with the family. Claire is convinced the planet will hit but John reassures her and their son Leo (Cameron Spurr) that all will be fine. Justine, suffering massive depression, seems fine with the possibility that Melancholia will hit.