The last time Lars Von Trier and Charlotte Gainsbourg collaborated on a film was in 2009 with the release of the controversial and extremly explicit ‘Antichrist’ that managed to woo the jury of the Cannes film festival giving Gainsbourg the honouring title of prix d’interprétation féminine or as we like to call is, the award for best actress. Joining Von Trier for a second time in his latest film ‘Melancholia’ has allowed the actress to showcase her acting talents, while keeping her clothes on.
‘Melancholia’ tells the story of two sisters and how there relationship is strained as a planet threatens to colide with the earth. Unlike her character in ‘Antichrist’, Gainsbourg actually plays the normal sibling Claire who is a stay at home mother and the wife of a “dirty-rich” astronomy-lover Keifer Sutherland. It is Kirsten Dunst who in this Von Trier film, is the insane and crazy one. In the film, Kirsten plays Claire’s sister Justine who is good at her job in the advertising world and is to be married to a seemingly nice young man but Justine is troubled with her work and her family life causing her to become severly melancholic.
Similarly with Lars’ former film ‘Dogville’, his latest film includes a lot of well known faces that all step up to the mark for their short amount of screen time. Recent BAFTA winner John Hurt plays Justine’s friendly natured father who seems to have mental problems of his own; Charlotte Rampling plays Claire and Justine’s mother who seems to only attend the wedding to express her hatred for Justine’s father and to top it all off, once again, Stellan Skarsgard plays nasty ad-man Jack. The shining stars in this film are Dunst and Gainsbourg; their relationship is real and the majority of that is down to Gainsbourg’s wonderful interpretation of a worried sister trying to save her family.
With all Von Trier films he likes to have an ending that shocks and even though, from the premise, we know what is going to happen, the final hour is a chilling and horrific state of affairs. It is like all your nightmares rolled up into one. But Lars didn’t make the film solely about the end of the world; he intended to mirror his own problems with depression and show what he went through in the character of Justine. The first hour of this two hour film is dedicated to Justine’s wedding where we see what makes her the melancholic woman she ends up being. She constantly tries to talk to her father who doesn’t seem to listen, she wants her mother to be happy for her even though she isn’t happy herself, she doesn’t want to work for her boss even though he’s just offered her a high sallary job on her wedding night and most of all, she’s not happy enough to be married.
Dunst deserved her prix d’interprétation féminine award from the Cannes film festival for her portrayal of Justine but the film and Von Trier, deserves so much more recognition from critics, award jury’s and most of all, audiences.