The second part is a more ruminative yet intense battle between the perspectives of the two sisters, with Justine gaining emotional strength and physical calm, welcoming the symbolic planet Melancholia with open arms (she even basks naked under its eerie glow) whilst her sister Claire, ever the rational, family-oriented one, panics and rages about the imminent disaster. Their philosophies clash until the very end, a climax that comes stunningly in full Wagnerian bombast leaving one speechless and almost exhausted. Many people would gripe about the film’s scientific inaccuracies, but that’s beside the point. Obviously von Trier is less interested in scientific calculations and more on the existential odyssey of his central characters and their reactions to the apocalypse. There’s even a hyper-stylised prologue shot in Phantom camera, showing ravishing images of the destruction in super slow-motion – the bride running through a forest with roots and veins clinging to her dress, birds falling from the sky, Claire and her son sinking in a golf course turning into quicksand – dreamlike images operatically accompanied by Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Anybody thinking that science-fiction disaster movies should look like Roland Emmerich’s double-bill The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 is proven wrong. Von Trier spats at those kind of films, and re-establishes the sci-fi genre as an artistic pursuit just as what Andrei Tarkovsky did in Solaris. And as a great artist would claim, the greatest sadness imaginable is that we are all alone in a godless universe. It’s also a liberating feeling. So enjoy it while it lasts.VERDICT:
Like most of Lars von Trier’s films, this surreal sci-fi drama divides the house, drawing scathing critique and towering praise in equal measure. But there’s no denying its haunting, redemptive power. The true mark of a film’s greatness is when it burns in the mind long after you see it, and Melancholia does exactly just that. This is bold, aesthetically impressive filmmaking of the high order with an astonishingly nuanced central performance by Dunst.