Directed By: Lars von Trier

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgard, Cameron Spurr, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Jesper Christensen, Stellan Skarsgard, Brady Corbet, and Udo Kuer

A good title can go a long way in filmmaking.  With an informative name, viewers know exactly what to expect and are ready to go when the theater goes dark and the movie begins.  For example, Midnight in Paris tells you that there's something special taking place at that late hour in the French capital.  Be ready for a journey across the Atlantic that will make you yearn for a vacation.  Martha Marcy May Marlene is a tongue twisting title that tells you that the film will be about somebody crazy.  Get ready for a wild ride that will creep you out.  Finally, Melancholia lets you know that you're in for a depressing film.  The title of Lars von Trier's latest work forewarns moviegoers to liquor up before dealing with this somber movie, which I did.  That being said, having a drink in hand while dealing with this sobering tale of the Earth's utter destruction was not a bad idea at all.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Mike (Alexander Skarsgard) are getting married today.  It should be the happiest day of their lives, and it is for Mike.  For Justine however, the stresses of her wedding day are getting to her.  She soon becomes depressed and begins to unravel  mentally.  With Justine going crazy, her sister Clair (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland), who paid for the wedding, are doing everything in their power to keep the wedding running smoothly and keep the guests in the dark about what's really taking place with the bride.  Meanwhile, the planet Melancholia is on a collision course with Earth, and all life on the planet will be destroyed.

As the title suggests, Lars von Trier does not waste any time telling you that the film will be depressing.  The opening sequence of the film tells you that the world will end and that Melancholia will collide with Earth.  With the elephant in the room out of the way, the film is really a character study of sisters Justine and Claire and their separate journeys to breakdowns.  When Justine breaks down on her wedding day, Claire does everything possible to keep the day running smoothly.  When Claire s going crazy as she, along with the rest of the world, is about to die, Justine is calm as a cucumber and holds the family together.  On the wedding day, a normal everyday occasion, the crazy sister Justine is out of control.  Conversely, the sane sister Claire is out of control on doomsday when Melancholia crashes into Earth.  It's an interesting juxtaposition of sanity and depression, and von Trier has arguably made the most creative depiction of depression on the big screen to date.

To pull off this kind of a film successfully, you need great acting.  Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg must both navigate the thin line between sanity and insanity.  Given that Justine is actually the sister suffering from depression, Kirsten Dunst in fact has the harder job, but pulls it off quite successfully with a very emotive, transformative performance.  Having had her own personal battles with depression in the past, Dunst is probably able to add a greater layer of depth to the character of Justine than most actresses.  She's able to inject a certain authenticity in the role.  Also, Charlotte Gainsbourg plays a normal person who panics in the midst of a disaster quite well.

Despite the primarily depressing, melancholic tone of the film, there is still humor to be found in von Trier's film.  Specifically, Kiefer Sutherland's character John was downright hilarious.  There were times that he gave the comic relief that was absolutely necessary.  Whether dealing with a crazy bride  taking a bath in the midst of her wedding or trying to throw her even crazier mother off his property, he kept the film from becoming overwhelmingly somber.

Lars von Trier's Melancholia is a powerful, unique depiction of depression and what makes those that suffer from it tick.  It's a great film.  It's depressing though, so you will definitely need some kind of alcohol.  I recommend a nice, cold wine cooler.  Melancholia gets a 0.03% rating.