Rated 4.0

Lars von Trier’s gloriously glum, robustly romantic new movie contains what must be the best cinematic application of Wagner’s prelude to Tristan and Isolde since Bernard Herrmann riffed on it in the score to Hitchcock’s Vertigo. That, especially, makes Melancholia so outwardly mesmerizing that its rickety construction and characterization almost don’t matter. Almost. As an illuminating proxy for the filmmaker, Kirsten Dunst plays a new bride suffering from corrosively placid depression. Her wedding party—including Alexander Skarsgård, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Udo Kier and Brady Corbet—can’t quite cope with her condition, nor with the discovery of a rogue planet, called Melancholia, that may or may not be on a crash course with Earth. (Spoiler alert: It is.) Matters are made stranger by a vague sense that the actors haven’t agreed on just what style they’re working in, but together they’ve cemented a career capstone for the filmmaker: This apotheosis of luminous, strangely absorbing tedium.