Melancholia (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 18-Apr-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director and Academic
Featurette-Making Of-About Melancholia
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Filmbyen "the new mecca of cinema"
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 134:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Lars von Trier

Madman Entertainment
Starring Kirsten Dunst
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Alexander Skarsgård
Brady Corbet
Cameron Spurr
Charlotte Rampling
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/24 2.0 (2304Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In the latest film from Danish auteur Lars von Trier Melancholia is the name of a planet, a titanic gas giant, which is on a collision course with Earth. It is, of course, also a depressed state of mind and in his 2011 Cannes Film Festival cause celebre he gives us lashings of both - a destruction of the soul as well as of the body.

     It is difficult to talk about Melancholia without mentioning the disastrous press conference at the Cannes Film Festival when Trier launched into an inappropriate "joke" about his admiration for Adolf Hitler. The faux pas led to him being declared persona non grata at the Festival but it didn't stop his lead actress Kirsten Dunst from picking up the award For Best Actress.

     Melancholia is in many ways no different to any of Trier’s notable output. Like Dancer in the Dark and the recent Antichrist the director often subjects his leads, in recent times Charlotte Gainsbourg, to continuous cruel suffering. Not for him the happy ending or the easy passage through life. Even more than Dogville Melancholia is a work of extreme pessimism as if Trier shovelled all his hatred for the World into two hours of movie. For all that, it is remarkable and compelling filmmaking.

     At the beginning, the end. In an extraordinary slow motion introduction, scored to Wagner's prelude to Tristan and Isolde our small group of characters are in the midst of a cataclysm. Birds fall from the skies. Gainsbourg, holding her young son, trudges through a golfing green her feet sinking ever deeper into the turf. In a moment the world comes to an end - Melancholia has struck. It's no spoiler to reveal the end of the world. Von Trier deliberately wanted his audience to know that the film ends in destruction so that there would be no surprise, no element of thriller.

     Von Trier splits his film into two halves - one titled Justine after the character played by Kirsten Dunst and the other entitled Claire after the character played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. Justine has just got married to be handsome but dull Michael, True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard. On the way to the reception their oversized limo gets caught on the tight turns leading to the palatial country estate owned by her sister Clare and her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland). The wedding has cost a pretty packet and John and Claire are not impressed that the couple had turned up almost 2 hours late. The guests are revolting, in more ways than one. Justine's father (John Hurt) and his estranged wife (Charlotte Rampling) are barely on speaking terms. They both deliver speeches digging at each other and the mother unleashes a cold diatribe on the institution of marriage. It all goes downhill from there. However, as critic Jonathan Rosenbaum points out in his review of the film - it's a disaster but it is hardly the end of the world, that comes later! Justine wilfully self-destructs, pulling her life and career down with her. At this stage Melancholia is just a small aberration in the sky.

     In part two Justine returns to the mansion a destroyed woman with a deep depression that deprives her of almost all her faculties. Yet when the spectre of Melancholia appears it is clear who is tormented by the possibility of the end of all things. John is bullishly confident that the gas giant will miss the earth. Only Justine welcomes the coming apocalypse. The world is evil and must die, she reasons.

     Melancholia is another difficult, spiky film from Von Trier. It is the opposite of a disaster movie. Whereas any Hollywood action director would concentrate on the beginnings of the disaster and the worldwide struggle for survival Trier instead makes the end a bleak chess game between two sisters. It is at once beautiful to look at and difficult to watch. Whilst there is none of the genital mutilation of Antichrist there is enough suffering and vented spleen to put off the casual viewer.

     Kirsten Dunst puts in a mighty performance as Justine. She covers every emotion and makes this difficult, somewhat unlikeable woman essential viewing. The supporting cast including Gainsbourg are alive to the complexities of the piece and Keifer Sutherland plays an amazing anti-Jack Bauer.

    Having watched the film twice I'm still not sure whether it is a masterpiece of nihilism or an overpraised Tarkovsky like analysis of the human spirit.

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Transfer Quality


     Melancholia was shot on a combination of 35mm film and high-definition digital video. It was shown at the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This Blu-ray release observes the original aspect ratio.

     The film is split into a prelude and then two halves. Each has a different look. The prelude is highly stylised being in extreme slow motion. It is razor sharp and the level of detail is superb. It is hard to tell what are CGI effects and what is detailed composition. In the commentary track which accompanies this release the director points out that in one key scene, featuring Justine and the young boy in the woods, he went to the trouble of lighting each individual tree in order to get a strange effect. He also points out that whenever something is truly fake in the film they inserted a CGI lens flare to make it look "more real".

     The wedding section is shot with a hand-held camera in a documentary style. Von Trier directed the actors to do their bit and he simply followed the action. In the special features cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro describes how the first half was shot with a yellow warmth through it. The second half, focusing on Claire, was more "melancholy" in look, more stark in appearance.

     Throughout, this is an excellent looking film and the Blu-ray transfer does it justice. It is sharp throughout and the colours are clear and strong. The greatest bonus, however, is the level of detail on show. Every moment and thought passing through the heads of Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg is reflected in the faces

     There are subtitles in English for the hard of hearing.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are two soundtracks on offer. Both are in English. One is a DTS HD Master Audio track featuring 5.1 surround. The other is an LPCM 2.0 track. Both offer superior listening experiences.

     Although this is not quite as a reflection of the Dogme 95 ethos, there is much about the film that reflects the austerity of that movement. There is little in the way of unnecessary or imposed sound. Generally everything that can be heard by the characters can be heard by the viewer.

     The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The sound effects are perfectly rendered. The surround sound effects are subtle and used to create ambience, particularly in the wedding scene. The sub-woofer is rarely called upon except in the apocalyptic scenes where it really gets to flex its muscles.

    Instead of a traditional score Von Trier uses the prelude to Tristan and Isolde at various moments throughout the film. He uses it as a recurring motif believing that it allows the viewer to take something different out of the scene according to the varied emotion in the music. It is certainly powerful in the apocalyptic scenes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Commentary Track

     An informative audio commentary by Peter Schepelern, associate professor at University of Copenhagen Institute for Film and Media Sciences, and director Lars von Trier. They are clearly old friends and manage to chat their way through the film. It perhaps lacks the analytical depth that fans of the film might want. Why does the horse/golf cart stop on the bridge? The pair simply watch the scene and comment that film scholars will be arguing about it for some time to come. Von Trier is a hard taskmaster and is hard on himself and his film. He is just as likely to point out where his film fails as where it succeeds. It is no backslapping affair. Both men have strong Danish accents and at times I got confused as to who was speaking. I had to laugh when Von Trier described the surface of the Earth as having "Teutonic plates"! An enjoyable commentary.

Filmbyen: The New Mecca of Cinema

     A detailed look at the "new Cinecitta" the Filmbyen Studio in a former military complex outside Copenhagen where on any day you might run into Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg and Lone Scherfig trotting down the corridors. Shot in 2007 this is no high def spectacle but still a fascinating watch.


     Von Trier and his two leads discuss their characters and the purpose of the film:

The Making of Melancholia

     This is a four part featurette giving some further insight into the film and its production. It is a slight step above a normal studio EPK . I couldn't help but get the feeling when listening to the psychologist explaining the medical condition of melancholia and the astrophysicist detailing the science behind the apocalypse that both were aching to call the film out as bogus. Those who feel that the science really matters to the enjoyment of the film (it doesn't) can check out the copious online posters. The sections are :

Theatrical Trailer

    Yes, the trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  The Region A Blu-ray gets a short HD Net featurette on the making of the film but misses out on the Commentary and the Filmbyen documentary. Buy our Region!


     The films of Lars Von Trier are difficult to watch, sometimes hate-filled and rarely enjoyable as pure entertainment. Even if Melancholia has the gleam of European opulence over it this is still a challenging, bleak film. It is, however, required viewing for anyone interested in cinema.

     The Blu-ray is of high quality.

     The extras package is a little superficial but still appreciated.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

Other Reviews NONE
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Shall I buy it? - Tom (read my bio)