NYFF Spotlight: Melancholia
Posted by Michael Gibbons on 9.16.2011
Why you should see it:
The enfant terrible of international cinema, Lars von Trier, turns his sights to science fiction disaster movies with this tale of two sisters, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who must grapple with the end of the world. The film takes its name from a deadly planet that literally wipes out all those in its path, serving as the perfect metaphor for Justine’s oppressive, suffocating depression. With breathtaking cinematography and gorgeous compositions, Melancholia is Lars von Trier in full control of his medium, with spectacular results.
Melancholia premiered in the competition of the Cannes Film Festival, where Kirsten Dunst won the Best Actress Award. It also played at the Toronto and Melbourne Film Festivals.
About the director:
Lars von Trier is a Danish director who is one of the most recognizable names in contemporary international cinema. He is well known for his involvement with the Dogme 95 movement he founded with Thomas Vinterberg, which established a set of rules and limitations for a more naturalistic style of filmmaking. Von Trier has participated several times in Cannes, including the Palme d’Or-winning Dancer in the Dark (2000), which also was Opening Night of the New York Film Festival. He is known for his provocative, confrontational style both on and off the camera.
What the critics are saying:
"It's the end of the world but also the start of something new for Lars von Trier, whose mind-blowing Melancholia offers perhaps the gentlest depiction of annihilation one could imagine from any director, much less the Danish provocateur," Peter Debruge, Variety
“Despite the somber nature of the title, the movie is something of a breather, a respite, a chance for von Trier to explore emotional anguish and intricacies in vibrant, often elegant visual ways, with no self-mutilation involved. It’s gorgeous to look at, deeply moody and atmospheric, and it’s always in on its own grim little joke." Stephanie Zacharek, Movieline
"Revisiting the bleak tones of his last feature, Antichrist - which began with a similarly hyper-stylized prologue - Von Trier has constructed a mesmerizing elaboration on his favorite motifs, masterfully elevating them to an epic scale." Eric Kohn, indieWIRE
What the NYFF programmers say:
Melancholia is the latest from Lars von Trier. It’s a movie set during a rather elaborate wedding reception that happens to coincide with the last moments of life on planet Earth, which is on a collision course with a planet called Melancholia. The focus is on two sisters -- one the newlywed bride, played by Kirsten Dunst, who won the best actress prize at Cannes, and the other played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, a Lars von Trier regular. The cast also includes Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, and Alexander Skarsgård. Aside from all the controversy the film stirred up at Cannes because of comments Lars von Trier made at the press conference, the movie itself is probably the best received film Lars von Trier has ever had at Cannes. People liked it who said they’d never liked a movie by him. It’s a quite mature contemplation on life on Earth at this moment—a movie Ibsen or Strindberg might have written. - Scott Foundas, Associate Program Director