Emotionally brutal end-of-the-world drama.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this drama about the end of the world from controversial Danish director Lars von Trier is emotionally overwhelming and very depressing, with a strong sense of mortal terror. Most of the movie's conflicts consist of arguing and yelling, but the impending destruction of the entire world is very intense. The other big issue is sexuality, with the main character (played by Kirsten Dunst) appearing fully naked in more than one scene and having sex with a younger man (not her husband) on her wedding day. Language includes infrequent use of "f--k" and "s--t," and characters occasionally drink alcohol, mostly at a wedding.
Confused and Very Depressing!
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Not suitable for people under 15.
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What's the Story?
After a prologue showing some strange atmospheric phenomena, the first part of MELANCHOLIA introduces viewers to Justine (Kirsten Dunst) on the day of her marriage to kindhearted Michael (Alexander Skarsgard). Over the course of the evening, Justine grows increasingly moody and upset and starts alienating everyone around her. The second part of the movie takes place some time later; Justine's depression has worsened, and she's come to live with her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). A rogue planet, Melancholia, is seemingly on a collision course with Earth, though Claire's husband (Kiefer Sutherland) asserts that it will be a near miss. As events turn darker and grimmer, Justine finds herself drawn to Claire's young son, perhaps looking for one final human connection.
Is It Any Good?
As a drama, Melancholia often goes over the top, most notably in its super slow-mo prologue. It also includes little moments of welcome, albeit misplaced, humor. As science fiction, it's obscure and inert; the threatening planet is little more than a vague theory and a convenient plot device. But as a work of art that evokes a strong emotional response, the movie succeeds wildly. It's impossible not to be moved in a profound way by the small events that take place within the larger one.
Controversial Danish director Lars von Trier has long probed the darkest of places, most notably those surrounding women's social and sexual power, but now he takes on nothing less than the end of the world itself. Ironically, in this direst of moments, von Trier's latest heroine also seems to find her greatest moment of triumph: reaching out to another human being in greater need than herself.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how the movie addresses the idea of the end of the world. How does the movie evoke terror and dread? How does it compare to other movies' take on the topic?
What makes the main character so depressed? How does she deal with her problem? What are some other ways she could deal with it?
Why does Justine use sex and nudity to deal with her depression?
- In theaters: November 11, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: March 13, 2012
- Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Kirsten Dunst
- Director: Lars von Trier
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 136 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some graphic nudity, sexual content and language
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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