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NYFF: Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia”

NYFF: Lars von Trier's "Melancholia"

Towards the end of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, the troubled—and, as strongly implied in a third-act revelation, clairvoyant—Justine (Kirsten Dunst) reflects on the earth’s imminent demise. “The earth is evil,” she observes, clearly the mouthpiece of her film’s notoriously provocative maker, “We don’t need to grieve for it.” Trier’s Melancholia has drawn many comparisons to another cosmic existential head trip that, like this film, debuted at Cannes 2011: Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Their superficially similar structures are obvious. The former imagines, with despondent nihilism, the end of the world through the experience of a person uncommonly attuned to the worthlessness of living; the latter tries to make sense of death and human suffering by contemplating the origins of the universe and of life on earth, as well as the childhood of its protagonist. It should be stated on the outset, however, that Trier’s film is not the yin to Malick’s yang; it is its opposite. Read Chris Wisniewski’s review of Melancholia.

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