I’m going to jump in feet first by saying that Melancholia is my film of the year so far. It is as profound an artistic rendering of depression as I’ve come across since William Styron’s Darkness Visible or even The Bell Jar. Certainly I’ve never experienced its equal in film; many movies have depicted depression, but few have ever expressed the experience of depression so truthfully and eloquently.
The story, as far as it matters, concerns two events. First: a wedding between depressive advertising executive Justine (Kirsten Dunst, never better) and cheery naïf Michael (Alexander Skarsgard), hosted by the bride’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her super-rich husband (a saturnine Keifer Sutherland) in their immense country home; an ostensibly cheerful event riven with sub-surface tensions. The second event is the appearance of a rogue, extra-solar planet – called Melancholia, metaphor fans – which, it is feared, will career headlong into Earth, destroying it utterly (a sequence played out at the start of the film, alongside dreamlike still/slo-mo images and romantic score – Wagner’s prelude to Tristan und Isolde – reflecting a similar opening to Von Trier’s previous film, Antichrist, to which Melancholia is a companion-piece).