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Film (2011). Zentropa Entertainments. Written and directed by Lars von Trier. Cast includes Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling, Alexander Skarsgård, Stellan Skarsgård and Kiefer Sutherland. 136 minutes. Colour.

On a Swedish island estate, a depressive bride (Dunst) blows off her lavish wedding and awaits the End of the World with her sister (Gainsbourg) as the newly-discovered giant planet Melancholia heads for a collision with Earth.

Thrilling, beautiful, and sublimely ridiculous, this luscious slice of languid apocalypse porn opens with a stunning dream-vision of the coming catastrophist doom (see Disaster), before settling into a leisurely ensemble study of the impact of depression until the midpoint, where the focus switches from Dunst's character to Gainsbourg's and the imminent reality of planetary extinction comes belatedly to attention. Resisting the familiar tropes of apocalypse cinema – scenes of worldwide panic, governmental and media responses, survivalist counter-plans – the film lingers on its small, isolated cast and the struggles for familial authority and control of truth between the woefully internet-informed Gainsbourg and her rational astrophysicist husband (Sutherland), while Dunst's character conversely finds liberation from her condition in the approaching end. [NL]


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 07:38 am on 1 April 2023.