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Review: Melancholia

 Who's ready for another mindfuck courtesy of Lars Von Trier? After his efforts in the horror genre in 2009's outstanding Antichrist, Mr. Von Trier has turned his attention to the disaster genre with Melancholia. The film is interestingly set against the backdrop of a feuding family who have gathered for a wedding at a luxurious country manor house. However, the discovery of a planet slowly coming into collision with earth pushes these family relationships to breaking point.

Von Trier's direction is nothing short of breathtaking. From the onset we're shown potential results of the disaster in slow motion, featuring Gainsbourg's character carrying her son through a sinking golf course and Dunst surrounded by falling birds. It's a particularly emotive way to set the film up and these striking images stuck with me throughout. Von Trier's distinctive, instantly recognisable style carries on throughout with a stunning array of point of view, sweeping high angle shots and others that really showcase the locations and magnitude of the looming planet. It's a visually stunning, incredibly original take on the disaster genre.

Von Trier manages to showcase his usual themes in this setting - mainly women at breaking point or in crisis (which we also saw in Antichrist). However, it's also a stark and brave look at what some may argue is the pointless ritual of life - this is particularly evident through the wedding ritual with Gainsbourg's character panicking over the smallest details of the wedding (even the way the plates are passed round the wedding table is brought into question) which is really of no importance in contrast to the upcoming disaster. Again this idea is extremely socially relevant, with global warming and the deterioration of the planet becoming problems affecting 21st century society. The melancholic look at life and death provokes provokes some gut-wrenching emotion at points largely through Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg's performances.

I was originally skeptical at Kirsten Dunst's casting, questioning whether she could pull a role like this off convincingly. These fears were immediately put aside as the film progressed - she was completely compelling as the bride struggling through mental breakdown and the stages depression. Charlotte Gainsbourg is truly a revelation in this - a woman who's growing paranoia of the planet's collision is destroying her life. Her character's eventual breakdown towards the end of the film really showcases her magnificent skills as an actress.

The supporting cast are equally talented. Alexander Skarsgard leaves a big impression, despite his role not giving him a huge amount to do. Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt and Stellan Skarsgard deliver some of their most interesting supporting performances of their respective careers. Also fan favourites Udo Kier and Jesper Christensen appear in fairly entertaining smaller roles and shape off the film's rather spectacular cast.

For those that aren't fans of Lars Von Trier, Melancholia may try your patience but I genuinely found it nothing short of a masterpiece. The breathtaking direction, undeniable style, supreme performances and intensely emotive take on the genre makes this one of the must see films of the year.

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