Justine (Kirsten Dunst) isn’t enjoying her wedding day, much to the
chagrin of her flustered, but supportive groom Michael (Alexander
Skarsgard). The clinically-depressed bride’s spirits aren’t even lifted by
the fact that her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and brother-in-law,
John (Kiefer Sutherland), have thrown her a glamorous reception at their
mountaintop mansion with a view.
And when Justine takes a break from the festivities to lie on her back and
peer into the night sky, it doesn’t register that the unusually bright star
overhead might be a rogue planet on a rendezvous with Earth. She just
rejoins the party, only to be so overwhelmed with unhappiness that she soon
decides to break off the marriage.
That gloomy scenario sets up the unsettling second act of Melancholia, a
morose meditation on mortality directed by Lars von Trier. The Danish
director follows that opening segment “Justine,” with a closing tableau
As part two begins, we find Justine single again and living with her
sister’s family. She takes little comfort in astronomer John’s assurances
that the approaching, oversized asteroid Melancholia will miss but not make
impact, since the leading scientists agree that it’s on a collision course
Soon, however, the script is flipped with Claire becoming depressed due to
an inability to handle the idea of annihilation, especially because she has
the responsibility of allaying her young son’s (Cameron Spurr) anxiety.
Then, when her hubby inexplicably disappears, that all but confirms her
worst fears, and it falls to Justine to summon up the courage to comfort the
boy while facing their fate with grace and stoicism.
It’s impossible to guess what the end of the world might look like or how
you might behave, but this alternately surreal, seductive and sobering
descent into dystopia is as entertaining and good a guess as anybody’s.