Cannes 2011: Lars Von Trier on his latest production,”Melancholia”

Two years after Antichrist, the director of Dancer In The Dark, which won the Palme d’or in 2000, returns to Competition with Melancholia. This feature film with psychological undertones marks the filmmaker’s first venture into science fiction.

If there’s one thing that cinema followers agree on regarding Lars Von Trier, it’s that each new stage in his film career provokes a reaction. A perfect example from this Danish director who loves improvised scenes and filming with a shoulder-mounted camera is his successful 2009 film, Antichrist, a heavy psychological drama starring Charlotte Gainsbourg (who won the Prix d’interprétation féminine).

Melancholia is Lars Von Trier’s 9th film presented in Competition following in the footsteps of The Element Of Crime (1984), Breaking The Waves (1996, Grand Prix du Jury), and Dogville (2003), and he has decided to venture into science fiction for the first time. Until now this is a genre he has avoided, in keeping with his cinematographic ideals, which involve in particular avoiding special effects.

The plot of this “romantic” (in the words of Lars Von Trier) feature filmed in Sweden focuses on the worrying appearance of the huge planet of Melancholia, which threatens to collide with the Earth. Against this apocalyptic backdrop, Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) and Justine (Kirsten Dunst) are getting married. But the relationship between the bride and her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) deteriorates the closer Melancholia gets.

Of particular note in the cast is Kiefer Sutherland, the hero from the 24 series, and actress Charlotte Rampling.

Lars Von Trier on the plot of Melancholia :

“For me, it’s not really a film about the end of the world but about a state of mind: melancholy. The planet is in the process of being destroyed, yet what’s the point of being worried by it as we’re all going to die anyway!”

Lars Von Trier on melancholy:
“I’ve experienced several melancholic phases in my life. I like the notion of suffering and of guilt driving melancholy. Melancholy exists in the art I like and is an integral part of the most successful artistic forms. Even when I try to do comedies, they become melancholic!”

Charlotte Gainsbourg on the work of Lars Von Trier :
“Before Antichrist, I didn’t know how he worked. This time, everything was very different, even if our collaboration went in the same direction. Lars doesn’t always answer our questions, but I prefer to be kept in the dark to a certain degree”.

Kirsten Dunst on depression :
“Depression is about discovering who you are. People who have been faced with depression always emerge stronger. That is what happens with my character, who becomes ever stronger as the film progresses”.

Lars Von Trier on the romance in Melancholia :
“When I saw the stills, I began to reject the romance. Wagner’s music carried us away to a point where everything had become a bit over-romantic. It’s possible that it’s not even worth watching this film!”

Written by B.P.

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