Lars Von Trier is never one to mince the sentiment of well, melancholia, or the utter isolation of human existence. He's proved his fearlessness time and time again with expressing a rather unpopular view of the world--Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, and Antichrist all being cases in point--which is, essentially, that it is the most wretched of all things and would be best left out of the collective picture (read: universe). And now, Von Trier's typically grim portraits of what it is to live on Earth have come to full-blown fruition with Melancholia.
Kirsten Dunst stars as Justine, the lovely to look at, deadbeat bride, who seems to sense that something greater is wrong than the mere fact that she could not give less than one fuck about her new husband, Michael (Alexander Skarsgard). As she roams from one milieu to the next on the stately mansion/golf course provided for their wedding reception by her brother-in-law, John (Kiefer Sutherland), and her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg a.k.a. Ms. Antichrist herself), Justine can't help but feel as though she would rather be anywhere else except inside with Michael and her dysfunctional family.
Said dysfunctional family consists of a mother (the always avant-garde Charlotte Rampling) whose severity and harshness can only be compared to a hybrid between the Queen in Snow White and the Queen in Alice in Wonderland and a father (John Hurt) whose zany lasciviousness is both charming and repellent.
In an attempt to distract herself from these people, Justine engages in every task that could possibly be available to her, from tucking in her nephew, Leo (Cameron Spurr), to riding a golf cart to taking a bath. Claire, ever the responsible sister, tries as best as she can to wrangle the quietly unruly bride, knowing full well that a girl like Justine can't be told what to do. Also in the mix is the disgruntled wedding planner (Udo Kier, who has been in some of Andy Warhol's finest films, not to mention the best Madonna video ever, "Deeper and Deeper"). Upon Justine's first infraction, he declares, "She ruined my wedding. I will not look at her," promptly putting his hand over his face so as not to look at her. It is actually one of the best details of the film.
By the end of the reception, no one can go on pretending as though everything hasn't fallen apart. Among Justine's irrational choices are: Committing adultery with one of her boss' subordinates, Tim (though, who can blame her as he is played by Brady Corbet?), quitting her job in spite of freshly being promoted to the position of art director, and, finally, admitting to her husband that it's over, coldly inquiring of him, "What did you expect?" So, in other words, it is the most unsuccessful wedding/marriage ever, but none of it matters because Justine knows that it's all coming to an end anyway. Once Melancholia, an elusive planet slated to hit Earth's atmosphere, makes contact, no one will be around to judge her actions anyway.
Only vaguely apologetic for her treatment of Michael (seeing as how the end of the world is imminent), Justine retreats into a depression that Claire subsidizes by letting her stay at their house. The question of how different people react when they are consciously (as opposed to subconsciously) aware that their days are numbered is explored in depth at this point. Claire, the idealist, chooses to ignore the possibility of death as much as she can, in spite of all of the signs being right in front of her. Justine, the fatalist, insists, "The Earth is evil. No one will miss it." In many ways, it is an allegory for the religious versus the non-religious.
How it all pans out in the end is in keeping with the Von Trier no holds barred sector of reality. But what I am surprised by is how obvious he made the metaphor for this movie: The Earth's undoing is Melancholia/the Earth's undoing is melancholia.