Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Artificial Eye

Release date: September 30th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 135 minutes

Writer and director: Lars von Trier

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Alexander Skarsgård, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier

NASA Answers Your Questions About Comet Elenin

On December 10th, 2010, Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin spotted C/2010 X1 (Elenin) for the first time.

In the 9 months that followed, the comet, with an estimated diameter of 200,000 km, made its way to the inner solar system-igniting fears that we might be on a collision course that could eclipse Tunguska in 1908 and even the impact that killed the dinosaurs 65.5 million years ago.


As I write this, Elenin is now safely passing us as it makes its way closer to perihelion (its closest point to the sun), but the thought of it couldn’t be closer to my mind as I watched Lars von Trier’s epic Melancholia.

After a beautifully sequenced intro filmed in slow motion and depicting a highly stylised version of events we are about to see, Melancholia changes techniques. The synchronicity we see in this ballet of images is broken once when we begin to look at human lives.

Its story is one the lives up to its name as we meet two sisters, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). On what’s supposed to be a night of joyous celebration as Justine marries Michael (Alexander Skarsgård), we learn very quickly that the bride is a troubled woman, prone to bouts of depression.


Despite the lavish party where no expense has been spared by her brother-in-law, John (Kiefer Sutherland), Justine is incapable of happiness. She senses something, she “knows things”.

She knows there are 678 beans in a glass bottle, she knows that life on Earth is evil and she knows that we are the only life out there in the universe, and not for long. Melancholia, a hypnotically blue planet has been hiding behind our Sun up until now but as its orbit brings it closer to Earth’s, Justine might actually be right.


With von Trier’s assembled cast and emotionally charged scenes, Melancholia posits the idea that we are in fact doomed, that these are Earth’s final moments.

Far away from military operations, scenes of epic panic, patriotic speeches and heroics of sideline characters, Melancholia chooses instead to focus on what the end of the world means to just a couple of people who for the most part are incapable of dealing with the world even on a good day.


I found it in no way comparable to Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life (2011). Both masterworks are from very different minds and the ideas encapsulated within them couldn’t be further apart. To make comparisons is simply not to have understood or taken away much from either film.

That money brings happiness and a career defines a person’s worth are notions that von Trier also tackles here, and for the bourgeois society, his end of the world vision puts them squarely in Melancholia’s path, seemingly before everyone else. It’s a breathtaking moment and makes me believe more strongly than ever that come what may, I too would like to meet my maker out in the open instead of cowering in fear should another of these objects sway just that little bit closer to our noisy little planet.


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