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‘Melancholia’ Brings the Apocalypse to New York

Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and the other stars of Lars von Trier’s latest vision of doom turned out for its showing at the New York Film Festival.

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Alexander Skarsgård

Photo By Scott Rudd

At the New York premiere of “Melancholia” at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on Monday night, one guest surmised that Lars von Trier is either very in love with Charlotte Gainsbourg or very much enjoys making her cry. Or both.


“We don’t have the happiest record of films together, do we?” Gainsbourg mused following the screening.

 

“Antichrist,” her previous film with the avant-garde director, features extensive genital mutilation, genocide and a healthy dose of misogyny.

 

“Melancholia” deals merely in the apocalypse. “Parts of this film are very, very funny in my opinion,” Gainsbourg said, “but I understand most people probably find it disturbing.”


The overwhelming noise of the film’s final moments was toned down from its Cannes premiere, where it was apparently untenable. (“But if it was the end of the world, it would be loud,” Brady Corbet shrugged.)


“Melancholia” follows two sisters, played by Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst, who attempt to navigate the end of the world. Alexander Skarsgård plays Dunst’s erstwhile husband, and his father (Stellan Skarsgård) appears in the film as Dunst’s employer.


“I was working alongside my father,” he offered, “and with a director I’ve always admired — what could have been better?”


Von Trier captures the descent of his heroines into despair, framing scenes tightly around their grief — at times the viewer can count the freckles on Gainsbourg’s cheeks, watch Dunst’s eyes deaden and sink. Gainsbourg mused, “There’s an isolated quality to the film, a tightness to it. [Von Trier] would say, ‘You know, it’s going to be like a nature documentary. We’re just going to shoot this and see what happens.’

 

Things that happened over five days in the film were shot over five days in real time....He let the angst and the anxiety build in a very natural way, but it was very difficult to live like that, you can see that in the film.”

Corbet’s on-screen appearances in general marked a welcome breath of levity.


“Oh, I think it’s a fun movie…,” Corbet said, pausing between throngs of praiseful partygoers at the DeLeon Tequila-hosted after party at Stone Rose Lounge, “even when it’s not ‘fun,’ it’s fun.”


Ezra Miller, a young actor who was not in the movie but who is no stranger to outré films, strutted through Alice Tully Hall and later Stone Rose Lounge in a shaggy fur coat in a rich shade of sable thrown over jeans and neon sneakers.


“It’s the best, man,” Miller said of the film, looping three fingers through the knee-length blonde tresses of his female companion, who grinned back. “It’s just the best. It’s the end of the world as we know it. All that.”

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