Movie review: Melancholia

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

Non-spoiler alert: The Lars von Trier flick about the end of the world is one of the most depressing movies you'll ever see.

For a director already known for wrist-slittingly bleak films like "Dancer in the Dark" and "Antichrist," this one may be his masterpiece.

The film opens on a shot of a gaunt Kirsten Dunst looking on wearily as dead birds fall from the sky. Things don't exactly perk up from there.

At a lush estate, friends and family gather for the wedding of Justine (Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard). And, as often happens at weddings, family tensions start to reveal themselves.

These tensions center on Justine's sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), wound tight as a drum, and her disapproving husband John (Kiefer Sutherland).

Oh, and adding to the tension? A mysterious planet named Melancholia is about to pass near Earth. Scientists say it won't hit, but scientists are sometimes wrong.

Von Trier ruminating on apocalyptic angst isn't going to be anyone's idea of a feel-good film. He paints more with tone than plot points, and some may find it dry. I found it entrancing.

Dunst's bipolar performance is rightly garnering Oscar buzz. Gainsbourg deserves the same.

"Melancholia" feels like a nice counterpoint to Terrence Malick's similarly polarizing "The Tree of Life" earlier this year. Maybe I'm just a melancholy guy, but this is probably the best film I've seen in 2011.


Opens Friday

4 stars out of 4