After an introductory montage that will draw numerous comparisons to The Tree of Life (which also interwove personal and cosmic narratives), Melancholia settles down to become what appears to be a conventional drama about a dysfunctional family. For the first ninety minutes or so we think this will be a family story about a chronically depressed woman, Justine (Kirsten Dunst), and about how her family and loved ones interact with her on the evening of her wedding.
The wedding is an elaborate affair funded by Justine's sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and her rich husband John (Kiefer Sutherland), at a posh resort, complete with an eighteen-hole golf course. Justine has a smile on her face through most of it, and if her happiness seems a bit strained, we chalk it up to the stress of being at the center of an elaborate production. Gradually we see that the problems run a little deeper. Her parents hate each other and use the wedding reception to vent their bitterness in a very public fashion. Her sister and brother-in-law are supportive, but he can barely conceal his impatience at her deep reservoirs of sadness that can't be solved with his checkbook. When Justine makes a detour between the wedding and the reception to see her horse, she seems quirky. When she cuts out in the middle of the reception to take a bath, she seems selfish. When she cuts short her groom in mid-wedding night consummation to go roaming the golf-course in her wedding dress, we understand that she is manic.
Events are neither as simple nor as personal in scope as they first appear, however. The morning after the wedding night we find out, almost in passing, that a disaster of epic proportions may (or may not, if one has faith in scientists) be imminent. ...1
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