At the heart of the film is a family of eccentrics, malcontents and wealthy arseholes coming together for the ostentatious wedding of Kirsten Dunst and just as one of her mid-nineties colleagues Natalie Portman achieved last year with Black Swan, Dunst is mesmerising from beginning to end. Conveying a woman no longer on the edge of a breakdown rather selfishly basking in its melancholic glory (see what they did there), her body and soul are laid bare on the screen for all to see.
For the audience it's an exhausting experience to watch someone run the gamut of emotions from giddy happiness to physical lameness in short bursts, but you simply cannot take your eyes off her. Much as this is down to Dunst's own dedication to the character, you also have to credit Von Trier for creating someone that can illicit sympathy and dislike for their mental ilness in equal amounts but still hold an audience's attention.
The impressive supporting cast also bring their dramatic gravitas to the visual sympthany being conducted around them. Amongst the A-Listers, Charlotte Gainsbourg - as Dunst's estranged sister Claire - grounds proceedings as a mother terrified by the prospect of a fast approaching apocolypse. Dunst will (rightly so) be receiving the critical plaudits but Gainsbourg is her equal in every measure, and her panicky twitching makes planetary destruction the extremely uncomfortable experience it should be. Special mention must also go to Udo Keir who appears to be channelling an agitated Martin Short from Father of the Bride as an angry wedding planner.
Known as a “prankster” in some filmic circles for films such as The Idiots and Antichrist with its talking foxes, Lars Von Trier is still a film maker that can produce moments of beauty, intrigue and pain that are worthy of the very best out there – and for once, the Cannes induced hype around a film is justified. Melancholia is claustrophobic to a sickening level, sombre, real and above all a restrained piece of work from Von Trier who lets his accomplished cast of thesps perform their hearts out to the end of oblivion.