Cinematography by Manuel Alberto Claro

Production Designed by Jette Lehmann

Visual Effects Supervisor: Peter Hjorth

Edited by Molly Marlene Stensgård

Music by Richard Wagner

Produced by Meta Louise Foldager & Louise Vesth

Written & Directed by Lars von Trier

Theatrical Release: 2011


Rating: R



Kirsten Dunst

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Kiefer Sutherland

Alexander Skarsgård

Stellan Skarsgård

Charlotte Rampling

John Hurt

Cameron Spurr

Brady Corbet


Production Studio:

Theatrical: Zentropa Entertainment

Video: Magnolia Home Entertainment



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD50

Feature Size: 33 GB

Bit Rate: Moderate ~ High (25-30 Mbps)

Runtime: 135 minutes

Chapters: 17

Region: A



English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1



Optional English SDH & Spanish



• The Making of Melancholia - in 1080P

About Melancholia (12:00)

Melancholia Visual Effects (7:00)

The Universe (4:25)

The Visual Style (10:10)

• HDNet Look at Melancholia (5:05)

• Trailers



Amaray Blu-ray Case: BRD x 1

Street Date: March 13, 2012

The Movie: 8

In his introduction to the “About Melancholia” bonus feature Writer/Director Lars von Trier states, rather pithily, that “It’s meant to be a film about Melancholia.”  And so it is.  


On the other hand, it is easy to be seduced by the Melancholia’s end-of-days buzz and the effects that support it, but, perhaps in part to help us not go there any too quickly, the first hour or so of the film avoids mention of the planet that appears to be on a relentless collision course with Earth – a planet, not coincidentally, named “Melancholia.”  Instead, von Trier allows us to witness a disintegration of another kind – and one that puzzles us without knowledge of that devilish planet.  Justine (Kirsten Dunst) arrives with her new husband (Alexander Skarsgård), albeit two hours late, to an elaborate wedding reception paid for by her sister’s husband (Kiefer Sutherland) at his remote mansion (filmed at Sweden’s Tjolöholm Castle just south of Gothenburg).



Though the wedding organizer (Udo Kier) is apparently von Trier’s private nightmare, most of the guests seem forgiving, but others – privately her sister, Clair (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and, publically, her mother (Charlotte Rampling), have words that are less than kind.  Justine’s boss (Stellan Skarsgård) barbs his toast with thinly veiled sarcasm.  Claire’s husband is very unhappy with the proceedings and makes no secret of it.  Justine herself comes across as disorganized, willful, yet lacking ego.  There is no center, only melancholia.


One by one, the guests make their exit, some with some circumstance, leaving only Justine, Clair, her husband and young son.  A servant remains, as do a stable of horses, but otherwise the planet may as well hold only these inhabitants, each (including the horses) representing and playing out basic personality strophes in the face of impending doom.



And it is here that von Trier’s movie begins to take shape and reveal its intentions, which I shall not reveal here, except to note that I found von Trier has a way with English colloquialisms (“Your idea is a piece of shit” for one) that doesn’t ring true for me.  The end, however, is well worth the wait, just as it is with Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, whose music from the prelude is repeated mercilessly throughout the film.  Wagner takes great pains to avoid harmonic resolution so that we are forever suspended in anticipation.  It’s a remarkably effective device that von Trier capitalizes on the film’s final seconds in a way that consumes existence.



Image: 9/10

The slow motion and planet effects footage is robust and wonderfully articulated: clear, sharp, fabulous contrast and color.  The drama proper is a mixed bag for me photographically – most disturbing to me is that focus always lags behind as the camera searches a new plane to rest on.  Drove me crazy, more so than the hand-held camera work.  Once focus sorts itself out, all is well, there’s really nothing to complain about in respect to image quality, and certainly not by way of Magnolia’s transfer.



Audio & Music: 10/8

I don’t know how you set your playback levels, but I should caution you to leave room for the end.  You probably will anyhow just as a matter of course, though no matter what you will be unprepared.  That’s the beauty of it.  I never saw it coming and feared for the neighbors.  Subtle ambient cues and dialogue is just as well realized.  There is one scene where I imagined I heard the fog move across the frame.  The better your sound system, the more astonishing, the more rewarding the experience.  And while this is always true, it is more so here than usual.



Extras: 6

Note the absence of a commentary and the Filmbyen documentary about the production company history, which exists on the UK Artificial Eye Region B Blu-ray.  The remaining bonus features are present on both editions, all in 1080p.  There are four segments about the movie: “About” is kicked off by von Trier but much of this feature consists of interviews with the Dunst, Gainsbourg and psychologist Irene Oestrich, whose insights are on target and provocative.  The segments on Special Effects and Visual Style are as expected, while “The Universe” is a cursory look at the science behind the film.  It’s hosted by Danish astrophysicist Michael J. Linden-Vørnle, following a word from visual effects supervisor Peter Hjorth who asserts from the outset that “Everything you see in Melancholia is real.”  Linden-Vornle is reassuringly more circumspect.



Recommendation: 9

In what could be described as Lars von Trier’s most optimistic film to date and the one that any audience should be able to identify with providing a little patience and the understanding that Melancholia is more like Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice and less like Roland Emmerich’s 2012, Magnolia has bought out a serious contender for best Blu-ray of the year.  Its psychological insights, mesmerizing imagery and palpably manifest soundscape should make for interesting post-viewing conversation as well as busy dreamwork.  Highly recommended.



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

March 9, 2012



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