By Phil Plait | July 10, 2011 7:00 am

I’ve been hearing rumors about an end-of-the-world movie called "Melancholia", and I finally stumbled on a trailer for it:

It looks pretty interesting. Without too many spoilers — it’s in the trailer, after all — the doomsday is caused by a planet approaching the Earth, and we hear someone say it was hidden behind the Sun.

Now, I’ll say that’s not really possible. A planet falling in from deep space and approaching us close enough to harm us would be visible for decades, and since the Earth circles the Sun once per year there’s no way the Sun could hide it for very long — if the Sun were hiding it in April, for example, by November it would be high in the night sky and visible to everyone. At first I interpreted the line to mean it was orbiting the Sun on the opposite side of our orbit, but that doesn’t work either; a planet big enough to hurt us would have revealed itself through its gravitational influence on other planets long before now (Gerry and Sylvia Anderson did a movie in the 60s based on this called "Journey to the Far Side of the Sun", in fact).

But that doesn’t matter. What good science fiction does is take a concept and see how it affects things, and in this case I’ll take a rogue planet as the plot device. "Melancholia" looks like a lovely movie, and I imagine I’ll watch it when it’s finally released in November.

Incidentally, a different movie called "Another Earth" will be coming out in a couple of weeks, but it’s also about a planet that appears in the sky, and also seems to be thoughtful and interesting. The trailer is on YouTube.


Comments (80)

  1. Kullat Nunu

    Meloncholia? Is it a sad cantaloupe or what? 😉

  2. MelOncholia = the sadness of melons? 😀

    Not so strange when Lars von Trier is involved…

  3. Why isn’t it possible that a planet might be ejected from its original home – perhaps by a galactic merger, or some other large event – and might be approaching us at light speed? Separated from a star, it seems like it would be difficult to spot, since we normally spot these things by gravitational wobble.

    Let me put it to you as a question: How far out can we see a planet from a ground-based telescope? And what about a rocky body that has no atmosphere – like an asteroid?

  4. Alan(UK)

    We would not see it if it was on the dark side of the Sun :-)

  5. Nemo

    My personal theory on the events of “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun” — have I mentioned this before? — is that there really was no planet on the far side of the sun (which, yes, would have been detected long ago). Rather, what happened was that the astronauts passed through something with a fourth spatial dimension and came back reversed. There are obvious problems with this explanation, too, but to me it seems more reasonable than the mirror-world scenario.

  6. Chris

    This looks like another movie that uses a popular theme to catch an audience but is actually nothing more than an abstract pretentious coming of age drama.

  7. Kristian

    Please proofread !

  8. Nullius in Verba

    “A planet falling in from deep space and approaching us close enough to harm us would be visible for decades”

    Depends how fast it is moving, surely? A rogue planet moving fast enough to cross the solar system in a year, that reaches a detectable range (~50 AU?) while it happens to be on the other side of the sun, would obviously give us no more than a few months warning and depending on how closely astronomers are watching the stars behind the sun during the day, it might hide in the glare close to the sun for quite a while. Or is there an upper limit to the speed rogue planets can move at?

    Not that I expect the film makers calculated actual feasible orbits or anything.

  9. Zucchi

    I’ve been reading hard science fiction since the mid-1960s. I love when it’s scientifically accurate — yet at the same time, some of my favorite movies are scientifically absurd. (E.g., the original “Planet of the Apes”.) If something works in a different way — as, essentially, a fable — I can let a lot of stuff slide.

    Oh — didn’t realize it was a von Triers movie. Might have to skip that one.

    My favorite end of the world movie is “Last Night”. Highly recommended.

  10. Tony

    Interesting webstie design for the film.

  11. Ha! Well, that was a silly spelling mistake on my part. :)

  12. charles222

    Kinda sounds like the plot from Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall book. The mystery planet doesn’t collide with the character’s planet in that, but it still sounds pretty similar.

  13. Dennis

    Not sure I want to support anything Lars Von Trier does.
    At best, he’s a fool with a twisted and tasteless sense of humor. At worst, well…

    (BTW – Kirsten Dunst’s reaction is priceless)

  14. Jamey

    Both of those look to be interesting stories. I can’t wait for them to hit release.

  15. kurtjmac

    @Phil I was thinking that there was indeed an unusual amount of Kirsten Dunst’s bare chest featured in that trailer that I would chock it up to a Freudian Slip. Melons on the brain.

  16. Penman

    “Lovely”? Have you ever seen a Lars von Trier movie?

  17. Ian Tindale

    This idea should be combined with Planet of the Apes; Logan’s Run; Barbarella and Capricorn One. With a bit of Dark Star and Silent Running, perhaps.

  18. Mike H

    I’ll just point out that it was a child saying that the planet was “hiding behind the sun”, so it may be a simplication. Regardless, as pointed out it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a plot device for a character-focused (melo)drama.

  19. Darrell

    May see this one but I’m a bit perturbed with Von Trier’s Hitler/Nazi sympathy comments he made recently at Cannes.

  20. Tbird

    I’m seconding #9 Zucchi’s comment, ‘Last Night’ is a great film and the best end-of-the-world film I’ve ever seen.
    Melancholia does look really interesting, but I’ve read enough about Lars Von Trier to be wary of seeing one of his films. The Hitler comments at Cannes are only part of it. He seems to really hate women.

  21. DS

    @13 and @19. Von Trier’s Hitler comments made more sense if you know that he grew up thinking that his father was Jewish, only to find out from his mother on her death bed that his real father was her former boss who had German ancestors, i.e. in his mind a “Nazi”. See this interview: The relevant part:

    Die Zeit: You grew up with a Jewish father. On her deathbed your mother told you that, in fact, your real father was a descendant of the Danish composer J.P.E Hartmann. And that this was her way of securing a “creative genetic make-up” for her child.

    Von Trier: Until that point I thought I had a Jewish background. But I’m really more of a Nazi. I believe that my biological father’s German family went back two further generations. Before she died, my mother told me to be happy that I was the son of this other man. She said my foster father had had notgoals and no strength. But he was a loving man. And I was very sad about this revelation.
    He makes really twisted movies, and his joking comments at Cannes weren’t particularly funny, but he’s hardly a Nazi sympathizer. (Of course, they seemed to have no problem with genuine anti-Semite Mel Gibson at Cannes. )

  22. Nullius in Verba

    The Cannes comments were a joke that went badly wrong, where he was asked about his artistic inspiration in German film-making culture, and he tried to make a joke about having been brought up Jewish but then suddenly discovering he was German, and how it supposedly meant he was now a Nazi and supposed to identify with his new cultural identity. It was, if anything, an anti-German joke (invoking the stereotype that Germans are all supposed to be Nazis), but the combination of a rambling deadpan delivery and repeated attempts to rescue the humour when he realised people weren’t getting the joke turned it into a disaster. Never try heavy irony on an international audience in your second language.

    I’ve no idea what his views on women are, but he’s apparently famous for directing some of the first and best porn films to appeal to women. I wouldn’t know.

    He does hate flying, though.

  23. Dennis

    Just wanted to point out for those interested in “Last Night” that there are two films with that title.
    The one from 1998 is the one about the end of the world; the one made in 2010 is a romantic drama.
    Here’s a link to the trailer for the relevant one:

  24. Magrathea

    The Gerry and Sylvia Anderson movie also had the title Doppelgänger pretty much everywhere else in the world.

  25. fmobus

    Fret not my friends. By the end of this movie, after a series of plot twists, this terrorist planet will spill under tortu^H interrogation its co-conspirators and shall be stopped. After all, Jack Bauer is there, and he won’t have a perfect wedding ruined.

  26. QuietDesperation

    Both films look really annoying.

  27. Matyas

    Chris, not so much a pretensious coming of age movie as a depressing pretensious oh my god everything is going to hell in a plastic bag kinda movie. Pretty much only kind of movie von Trier makes

  28. Smitty

    @ Steve T.

    On good nights with adaptive optics the largest of the telescopes on the ground can see very nearly to the edge of the visible universe. IOK-1 was seen from Hawaii with the Subaru telescope and (partially ?) confirmed to have been 12.88 Billion ly from Earth when it’s light was emitted.

    There is UDFy-38135539 at about 13.1 Billion ly, but it did come from the HUDF.

    Then there is GRB 080319B, which was naked eye visible for about 30 seconds at a distance of 7.5 Billion ly.

    As far as “planets” go there is Cha 110913-773444, at 163 ly. It may be either a sub-brown dwarf or a rouge with moons. We aren’t sure yet. Check this link:
    In the sidebar there are pictures of directly imaged “planets” at ranges of 25 to 450 ly.

    Also, nothing with mass can go light speed. Not even close. The most violent ejection events may result in a speed of a few thousand kp/s at best.

    And as far as reflectivity index or albedo goes, you don’t need an atmosphere to have light reflected. Take the moon for example. Sure it’s close. There is however, no atmosphere.

    The biggest real threats we face now are Apophis in 2036 and NEO city killers we haven’t mapped yet. Both of those however are still extremely low probability events.

    Read more BA and UT and listen to Astronomy Cast, You’ll get it.

  29. QuietDesperation

    After all, Jack Bauer is there, and he won’t have a perfect wedding ruined.

    Just give him five minutes alone with the planet while Chloe retasks an asset.

    I don’t even get the one with the other Earth. If it’s a copy, how does making up for your crime to a copy help anything, unless I’m totally misreading the trailer.

    One of the best end of the world movies was John Carpenter’s “In The Mouth Of Madness”. Lots of H.P. Lovecraft derived goodness (along with Stephen King and Quatermass references), and the mad beings from some insane dimension win in the end. The POV character wonders if humanity will eventually be remembered only in long faded myths.

    “The Quiet Earth” is another good one. It ends with this image of a reality forever changed by… well… they never fully explain that, bit it’s still cool.

  30. noen

    An artist’s politics has little to do with his/her artistic merit. Ezera Pound was and out and out fascist and admirer of Mussolini but he was also the greatest poet of the early 20th century. Edgar Allen Poe was a pedophile yet that hardly keeps people from admiring his work. If we’re going to start purging the world of art done by artists who’s morals we dislike the museums will be empty. And of course, Lars von Trier is not actually a Nazi. Sometimes the way you get attention for your latest movie is by saying outrageous things.

    von Trier’s “Antichrist” is…. difficult and I wouldn’t recommend to just anyone but it is I think an important movie. Good art doesn’t match your sofa and good film doesn’t pander to your prejudices.

    “After all, Jack Bauer is there, and he won’t have a perfect wedding ruined.”

    It never ceases to amaze how people can complain about European art house films and then turn around and show admiration for right wing torture porn. Before they go around judging other people perhaps Americans should take a look at their own love of violence and torture. Stop fapping to Jack Bauer and maybe the rest of the world will take your moral outrage at European sexual frankness a little more seriously.

  31. I’m somewhat surprised you haven’t yet sent your readership to check out today’s SMBC comic. It’s delightful.

  32. samm

    “”Melancholia” looks like a lovely movie,”. Not the first to say it, but not likely if Lars von Trier is directing it. Lars von Trier and “Lovely” go together like nails and a blackboard. I liked some of his very early stuff, but he went on to become the very caricature of a pompous and pretentious european film director, especially after he started propounding the dogme manifesto.

  33. @Smitty:

    Direct imaging of planets at 450LY? I had no idea. That’s comforting; so if this preposterous scenario were to actually happen, we’d have a few centuries to develop a Death Star. 😀

  34. mcb

    I’m hoping “Melancholia” is the first von Trier film I can actually sit through. He’s even more sad and twisted than Lynch.

  35. Pepijn

    “At first I interpreted the line to mean it was orbiting the Sun on the opposite side of our orbit, but that doesn’t work either; a planet big enough to hurt us would have revealed itself through its gravitational influence on other planets long before now”

    Also, don’t we have satellites now that can see to the other side of the sun than where we are? Or can they not see far enough or with a high enough resolution to see a planet there?

  36. QuietDesperation

    Can we have one thread where some group isn’t pointlessly attacked with bigotry?

    It never ceases to amaze how people can complain about European art house films and then turn around and show admiration for right wing torture porn.

    Which people? You’ve met them? Talked to them? And you have documented evidence that it’s the same exact people? It’s either that or psychic powers. Which one?

    Before they go around judging other people perhaps Americans should take a look at their own love of violence and torture. Stop fapping to Jack Bauer and maybe the rest of the world will take your moral outrage at European sexual frankness a little more seriously.

    Yes, we just *love* violence and torture! Grrr! Sweet Smoking Baby Jesus, overreact and stereotype much? The guy’s Jack Bauer comment was a joke, as was mine.

    Don’t be so judgmental.

    An artist’s politics has little to do with his/her artistic merit.

    True. However I am free to choose not to give financial support to an artist whose views and actions I find questionable.

    Sometimes the way you get attention for your latest movie is by saying outrageous things.

    And sometimes you lose business from people who see through such tiresome antics. That’s the risk.

  37. Douglas Troy

    Kirsten Dunst looks stunningly beautiful. And did one of you say something about a planet or end-of-the-world in that clip?

    I’ve watched it several times and I Dunst know what you’re all talking about.

    I’m Kirsten myself for not noticing.

    Obviously I must have been distracted, I should watch the clip again.

  38. Michael Simmons

    The Wise Mission should have picked up anything sizeable that radiates its own heat out to about a light year.
    A cold rocky planet would not be seen by Wise. However it would be seen by the reflected light of the sun as soon as it got anywhere close to the solar system.

  39. Phil – others beat me to the punch. I’m sorry to say that I won’t be seeing this movie and I’m a bit cheesed off that you are promoting the work of this guy who aligns himself with the Nazi philosophy. A joke? I don’t think so. Here’s what he said:

    “I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi. Because my family was German… which also gave me some pleasure. So I’m kind of a… What can I say? I understand Hitler. But I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker. But there will come a point, at the end of this… I’m just saying, I think I understand the man. He’s not what you would call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I’m not for the Second World War, and I’m not against Jews… I am of course, very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass. But still, how can I get out of this sentence? No, I just want to say about the art, I’m very much for Speer. Albert Speer, I liked. He was also maybe one of God’s best children. He had some talent that was kind of possible for him to use… okay, I’m a Nazi.”

    I’m hoping that you make a comment. Your recommendations hold a lot of sway.

    Richard Stellar

  40. Thornyrose

    Sounds similiar to When Worlds Collide. Which according to IMDB, is in pre production with a release date of sometime next year. I don’t know what it is about end of the world scenrios, but for some reason I enjoy them so.

  41. CB

    Interesting trailer. It would be cool if the new planet ejects the earth and takes our place in the solar system, but first all the true believers in science are rescued by being transported to the new planet, and those who are hoping for the rapture stay on the ejected earth.

  42. The trailor does look interesting. I never even seen the previews on TV yet but I will make sure I watch it too.

  43. Jeffersonian

    Phil, it’s kinda funny that you approach a von Trier film the way you would generic Hollywood multiplex profit-pablum. Doesn’t really matter what the topic is, it’ll still be a von Trier film (and it’s starting to look like he’ll never top Element of Crime, Dancing in the Dark or Idiots. People’s petulant uninformed opinions about him were entertaining though.

  44. @39. Revolution9 Says:

    A joke? I don’t think so. Here’s what he said: “I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi.”

    Well if von Trier *really* wanted to be a Jew then he could be – as he could always convert to Judaism. It’s rare but it does happen. 😉

    He’s not so dumb he doesn’t know that right? Right?

    Never even heard of him before, btw. With what I’ve heard here now – I’m not so impressed.

    Film looks interesting .. kinda, maybe (?) but hardly SF so much.

    There have been a few SF tales using this premise too – going all the way back to H.G. Wells ‘The Star’ if I recall right. best verison of this I’ve read would have to be Fritz Lieber’s ‘The Wanderer’ – I’d see the movie of that anyday! 8)

  45. Surely I’m not the first to mention this song :

    by the Smashing Pumpkins am I? I am? Okay then. 😉

    As for HG Wells The Star story info here :

    dating back to 1897. Which shows there’s nothing new under – or hiding behind – the Sun for sure. 😉

    Plus this link :

    Gving you The Wanderers wiki-basics. A novel I’d recomend highly. :-)

  46. Btw. BA if this fan of yours can put in a request :

    Please, can you review this and blog a few more movie reviews generally? :-)

  47. Darrin

    Hmm…I’m kinda split on this film. On one hand, it’s going to be chock-full of pretentious nonsense and drama, but on the other hand, it will presumably show two planets colliding.
    Oh, and it shows Kirsten Dunst. A lot of Kirsten Dunst. Allllriiiight.

    I dunno, I may see it when it comes out on DVD. It does have Jack Bauer, though, so I have to assume he’ll beat the rogue planet to death with his bare hands. That would be worth the price of admission.

  48. bassmanpete

    I’m hoping that you make a comment. Your recommendations hold a lot of sway.

    Sounds like an appeal to authority to me. I thought most people commenting on blogs like this made up their own minds without reference to others.

  49. Bill3

    It looks like a chick-flick with just enough sci-fi content thrown in to get significant others interested enough to agree to go see the film. The “planet hiding behind the sun” thing may have been a simplistic explanation to the child that she regurgitated, but it certainly doesn’t pique my interest – it turns it off.

    I also doubt we’d see a spectacular planet-to-planet collision either – the budget got blown on costumes for the wedding and fairly expensive actors.

    I’ll pass.

  50. Thomas Siefert

    I’m not a big fan of Lars von Trier, but I did like his films Breaking The Waves and Dancer in The Dark.

    His films can be hard to watch and the real message runs in a layer beneath the story.
    Melancholia will not be about the end of the world, rather a study of how people will deal with it.

    Most people have only heard about from his stupid attempt a humour at the Cannes festival. He may be an idiot, but he’s not a Nazi.

  51. QuietDesperation

    It does have Jack Bauer, though, so I have to assume he’ll beat the rogue planet to death with his bare hands.

    Nah, he’ll send out Chuck Norris to do that.

    Both films sound like streamers, which is how the cool kids say “rental” now.

  52. CR

    @ QuietDesperation (29)
    Hey, I remember “The Quiet Earth”! I liked that film enough that I bought a CD copy of its score when I happened across it years ago. It’s a bit somber–not my normal fare for film scores–but is evocatively moody and very appropriate for the film.

    Strangely, I only have an old VHS copy of the film itself, something I must rectify soon. It’s a quiet movie (no pun intended) that prompts one to think about a lot of different layers within the main plot of our world suddenly being devoid of 99.99% of its population, and heading for something even worse if something isn’t done to correct it.

    I’m surprised nobody’s tried to steal–er, I mean remake this film. Of course, such a thing would have less cerebral stuff, more action and ‘splosions and CGI, and a much younger, hunkier lead character. (Hey, I said I was SURPRISED a remake hadn’t been made, not that I WANTED one!)

  53. this must be the first time I’ve ever heard a Lars von Trier film referred to as “lovely.”

  54. aleksandar

    Expecting scientific accuracy from a von Trier movie is a bit unjustified. Slim connection to sanity and reality isn’t a given either.

    About cosmic interlopers causing great damage and human trauma.
    While by now completely technically obsolete, H.G. Wells “The Star” did it best over a century ago.

  55. Is this just another “we’re all gonna die” “no hope” movie? At least in Wells’ “The Star” a few got off Earth. In the that story, the Bronson star turned out to be a double planet, one noxious and one livable and thawing from frozen at our sweet spot in the solar system – complete with roads and a breathable atmosphere, being left in place of the Earth. It’s noxious twin dragging the smashed Earth off into space. Thus ending on Hope. Read the book! Made into a movie in the ’50s: “When Worlds Collide”(not that great)… -30-

  56. Speaking of rogue planets about to destroy us, apparently the Nibiru thing is still floating around. It’s suppose to get us next year. Yahoo actually had an article about it on their home page tonight:
    On the other hand, Harold Camping’s new end of the world prediction is for November of THIS year, so now I don’t know WHO to believe!!!!

  57. Also, Jack Bauer is in ‘Melancholia.’ He’ll save us…. Though it may take him 24 hours.

  58. CR

    Had some trouble with my computer that prevented me from watching the trailers, but now that I have, I have to say that I’m not impressed enough to see either “Melancholia” nor “Another Earth.”
    After “Knowing,” a film I still try to warn people not to waste two hours on, I think I’ll pass on any end-of-the-world type movies. Man, that film really soured my appetite for such things. “Deep Impact” was flawed in many ways, but I didn’t hate it; didn’t really like it, but I didn’t hate it. “Knowing” sucked like a black hole, and although this film (Melancholia) looks very artistic and dream-like, I suspect that its ending will be fairly hopeless. Same with “Another Earth.” From the trailers for both, it appears that the main characters, after being angst-ridden for most of the film, will have some sort of closure/epiphany/cosmic acceptance of their fates and then die anyway in a special-effects laden climax.
    Give me light and fluffy action sci-fi, like “Cowboys and Aliens.”
    I know, what gives, right? Especially after I praised “The Quiet Earth” for its cerbral story and derided the notion of an action-oriented, SFX-laden remake. I think it stems from something going beyond cerebral and drifting too far into that dreamlike state. Sure, all movies show the audience only what the writers/directors want the audience to see, and I for one actually don’t necessarily like films that are so omniscient that I know everything… a bit of mystery/lack of knowledge is GOOD. But both of these films look SO MUCH like a dream that I just want to say, “this is taking too long, time to wake up and have a cooler dream.” (Yes, I have actually done that in some of my dreams! It’s about as close to lucid dreaming as I’ve ever gotten, and it seems to happen only randomly… usually, I’m just along for the ride as my unconscious brain makes stuff up while I sleep. But I digress…)

  59. realta fuar

    Well, OF COURSE IT MATTERS! When a movie gets the science we know NOW wrong, it’s just bad science fiction, by defintion. Writers and directors who can’t be bothered (because no one really cares, right?) to get the basics right don’t deserve our support. Full stop. The fact that the director is also a pompous idiot is not exactly a selling point either.

  60. Maria

    @53. “this must be the first time I’ve ever heard a Lars von Trier film referred to as “lovely.””

    Oh I don’t know, ‘Dancer in the Dark’ was at times exquisitely lovely; when it wasn’t busy being a manipulative gut punch to the stomach and a round house kick to the frontal lobe.

    @59. Most directors are pompous. But he’s far from being an idiot.

  61. i am very interested in movie stuff like that but after the stupid comments of Trier about Hitler in Cannes – i will prefer Another Earth…

  62. Gary Ansorge

    36. QuietDesperation

    We(Americans) seem to be much more tolerant of violence than we are of sexuality(see California vs violent games). Kids can see all the violence they want(at least, when their parents aren’t around) but SEX? Oh no,,,

    Sex is why we’re here at all so I suppose anyone who adheres to our popular monotheistic religions has good reason to hate it since they seem to want to go back to heaven. I just wonder why THEY don’t just suicide and get all that angst over with.

    Personally, I like earth based religions,,,they’re a lot more fun,,,(see The Wicker Man, original version).

    So far, no one has proposed(AFAIK) using a 12 km radius neutron star for their end of the world scenario. Dropping thru the solar system from above the plane of the ecliptic, if it was old enough to be relatively cool, detecting it years before its arrival would be difficult, at least until the gravitational effects became obvious.

    ,,,or one could have an archaic mini black hole(about the mass of earth and a meter in diameter) pass by,,,really hard to spot,,,

    Gary 7

  63. Maug

    This looks like it’s going to be the worst move.. EVER. I saw this trailer a few months ago and was speechless, and not in a good way. It looks like a horrible mash-up. Like.. take mixing Deep Impact with The King’s Speech or something. WTF?

  64. the end

    It is entirely plausible. But the governments of the world would know about it. Individuals might discover it, but there are many ways to silence them: free seats in the bunker with all the blondes you can eat; and if that fails murder is ok (and preferable) when you are a sovereign state. To tell the public would be suicide for the state(s). There would be total chaos. You want those economies rolling along to give you time to get your bunkers built. At the last minute all of the rats would disappear into iron mountain and we the people would be left waiting for the end. In fact, the mystery schools have known all along that this event comes around every few thousand years and they hide that knowledge from you to keep themselves in power.The End.

  65. ra

    if it was aproaching up from south pole would we still see it aproaching???

  66. rudabaga

    Did you guys see it? I loved it. Really loved it. And I was all happy reading the original blog post about how it could never happen and then you guys got all scary with ways it could. Please re-examine now and say this could never happen.

  67. PJsD

    It’s a beautiful movie. I was surprised, at first I thought it was going to be that movie about a second earth. I didn’t know anything about this production. Melancholia is partly SF with some very good special effects. The sideplots make it feel like a kind of thriller and it has spooky scenes that are beyond anything I’ve seen in a long time. Nightmarish horror. The opening is breath taking. The movie itself basically is about being depressed. This movie is a classic. The exterior scenes were shot at Tjolöholm Castle. Check it out in Google streetview.

  68. Mack

    Let’s say that a rogue planet did appear and hit the earth dead on. Let’s say that it is roughly the size of earth and travelling twice the speed of the earth. Can we (meaning you) model what would happen? For example, would the people on the impact side live until the actual collision or would there be shock wave or thermal reaction when the rogue planet entered the atmosphere that would kill everyone a fraction of a second before impact? And what would happen on the opposite side, would the collision be felt immediately? Would the ground immediately fragment killing everyone,? Would people and things be flung into space or turned to jelly by the shock? Could a bunker be hardened enough that anyone could survive such a collision?

  69. Morty62

    Melancholia is a beautiful movie that is less about science than it is about how individuals deal with the knowledge that the world may be coming to an end. Von Trier examines things in a microcosm. There is no panic in thr streets or plans to try and avoid our fate. Everything happens on a huge estate and the story revolves around two sisters, one of whom is clinically depressed. I know Von Trier has many detractors, but I find his movies to be emotionally intense and absorbing. They are also beautifully shot. He is not PC at all, which I guess is why so many people dislike his work or boycott his movies out of some misplaced sense of principle. The science of Melancholia may not be credible, but the movie itself is unforgettable and devastating.

  70. Carlo

    I recently saw this movie, and the number of scientific inacuracies is stunning. Also I felt that the best thing that could have happened to the characters would have been for a planet to fall on them.

  71. Will

    I came by to weigh in and defend this film, but Morty62 said it better than I ever could.

    In the end, the movie isn’t really about the end of the world, it’s about death, real, absolute death. We, as humans have come up with numerous ways to comfort ourselves with the knowledge of our own mortality; religion, compartmentalizing, having the knowledge we’ll be missed by at least a handful of people, of that we’ll have left our mark, on the planet in some way, like through the children we leave behind.
    In Melancholia’s premise, all the is gone and it asks the viewer to think, really think about their own mortality. It’s not an easy film to sit through, but it’s worth it.
    In other words, the science about the end of the world isn’t important, it’s just a MacGuffin.

  72. I watched it last night and loved it. It was beautiful, stunning, moving. With Tristan and Isolde playing in the background, this film unfolds slowly, forcing the viewer to think their way through it. Its not a Hollywood “blow the planet up and save the earth” flick with lots of explosions and action.. in fact, there is no suspense at all. We know the world will end, he lets us know at the beginning (during that spectacular extra-slow motion sequence). The movie is about us, as Morty62 states so perfectly. Moreover, it seems to be an impressive nod to German Romanticism (a personal favorite), with his nods to Wagner and Millais (ok, not German, but still…), and the sense of sturm und drang that pervades the whole film in a manner worthy of Schiller or Goethe.

  73. dean

    Some people are pathetic–at least their understanding of basic science is. The individual who said that a planet was offset by a galactic merger and is now approaching us at the speed of light doesn’t understand that we would see that planet long before it arrived.

    It takes light from a distant galaxy millions of years to arrive here on earth and likewise, a planet moving at close to the speed of light would take millions of years to arrive and we would spot it long before it hit.

    I write better science fiction that Von Trier, the idiot. He’s just a priviledged spoiled child of the media who probably comes from a wealthy connected family. Get a clue, people, those who have media connections are all very priviledged elites pulling the wool over our heads and they’re actually quite stupid in their understanding of the arts and sciences as this pretentious movie attests.

  74. woundedduck

    “…spoiled child of the media”? von Trier was raised in a middle class family, like most people. My research shows the media only had visitation rights every third weekend–hardly enough time to spoil him. Although von Trier is reported to have said the media lavished him with sweet cakes, in secret and against his parents’ wishes, so this could explain his distaste for sugary treats. But as to the effect it had on his filmmaking, it’s tough to say. I’m currently writing a piece for “Film Comment” about the structuralist modalities of post-confectionist lingual markers as they pertain to desserts in von Trier’s films. I’ll keep you posted.

  75. Lorena

    I watched it a couple of days ago. Boring. I watched lots of parts on fast forward. The first part of the movie, one hour long, it’s about a woman who is too deppressed and crazy to be happy at her own wedding. Barely a mention of the planet, just a blue star in the constellation Scorpio. The second half is more about the planet colliding with earth, with some lovely imagery, but I kept wondering, such a big planet so close to earth, wouldnt have affected earth before the collision, like taking it out of orbit or something?

  76. Cory

    Steve T., a planet traveling at the speed of light? Come on man, that’s just absurd.

  77. Kendal

    Watched it today. Afficianados who can tolerate von Trier’s typically gloomy vision with a science fiction element (and his hand-held camera work and long slow scenes) will find it watchable. Certainly, it’s well acted. And some of the imagery looks quite good. I liked the kid’s invention of the adjustable loop of wire on the end of a stick to crudely measure the planet’s angular diameter–a simple device to make the terrifying implications of the orbital mechanics comprehensible to just about anyone.

    However, the lack of attention to science ruined a lot of it for me. As others have correctly pointed out, one huge point is that a planetary body would have moved through the solar system slowly enough that its orbit would have been well calculated and the Earth’s fate known _well_ in advance. There would have been no mystery–and that would have made the actions of Kirsten Dunst’s character more understandable.

    The other huge point is that for that large of a body (the planet is shown as sort of an ice ball with something of an atmosphere) to whip past the Earth close enough to be pulled immediately back to impact our unfortunate world…well, it seems like it would have had huge tidal effects on it’s first pass.

    At the end, I was almost hoping for a quote from the famous Chesley Bonestell painting of a star coming so close to the Earth that people and buildings and oceans and ships and atmosphere float away as the star’s gravity begins to overwhelm the Earth’s. It looks like an ascent into heaven–an appropriately symbolic ending for a tale where everyone dies!

  78. Kendal

    Another point: the rogue planet’s relative size to the Earth is unclear, but Justine’s vision early in the film that shows the impact into the Earth makes the body seem about the size of the moon relative to the Earth. Hence, I think the rogue would have reached its Roche limit and broken up before the impressive final image of the film. Instead of impacting as a solid body, it would have been a cloud of planet chunks. No less deadly, but not the sadly beautiful sphere shown.

    Beyond the scientific problems, I’ve decided I don’t like von Trier’s script. Like Breaking the Waves, he seems to enjoy making us watch women humiliate themselves.

    Here is a site with cool Chesley Bonestell paintings, including the end-of-the-world series:

  79. Cate

    Why is it that if a story is told with imagery and sensitivity rather than dialogue that leaves nothing to the imagination, it is considered pretentious? This movie was gorgeous and while some of it dragged on a bit, it kept my attention. If you can think beyond the idea of a planet colliding with Earth, you’ll realize this movie is very metaphorical. She suffers from deep depression and the planet colliding with Earth is called Melancholia. It actually isn’t even trying to be vague…


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