Kirsten Dunst: Delving Into “Melancholia” Depression Was Therapeutic

After  playing a depressed bride facing the literal destruction of the planet, Kirsten Dunst’s not letting anything get her down. Even turning 30 next year isn’t the end of the world.

“It’s true: as you get older you just feel better about yourself and not as worried about what other people think of you in general, and you just get more comfortable in your skin. I welcome 30,” says Dunst. “And I look young!” she adds with a chuckle.

Dunst have received raves for her performance in Lars von Trier’s latest film “Melancholia,” a one-of-a-kind story in which her character, on the night of her wedding, falls deep into the deep, crushing depression that’s long haunted her, just as she and her family must also cope with the notion that there is no hope for the future when a cosmic calamity guarantees the end of the earth.

“I don’t think that [my character Justine knows the end of the world is coming when she’s at her wedding,” explains Dunst. “I think that there’s something she senses, but I don’t think that’s what makes her depressed. I think that she’s gone through this a few times in her life, and I think that the wedding and the pressure of getting married and realizing that this man isn’t who she wants to be with is making her depressed, and there’s something else she’s longing for that’s not in her realm.”

The film’s story is constructed out of von Trier’s own long experience with clinical depression, and Dunst, too, has dealt with her own personal emotional struggles with the condition. While she prefers to keep the details private, she admits that “Melancholia” offered her a chance to continue to work out some of her feelings.

“You don’t have an opportunity to do roles like this very often, and at the end, it definitely feels cathartic,” she tells PopcornBiz. “It should – all movies that I do, I feel like you’ve got to release some sides of yourself. The last movie I did was a comedy, and I got to play a real mean girl. I get so uncomfortable…it was difficult for me to think about where that comes from. But then you bring those things outside of yourself, and it’s fun to express those things. That’s part of why I like what I do.”

She was, however, concerned about the staging of a unlikely sex scene, in which her character aggressively seduces a wedding guest on a golf course while still in her wedding dress. “Having sex on the golf course was so awkward, because Lars doesn’t tell you at all how we’re going to do the scene,” she says. “I was so nervous in the trailer: me and Brady [Corbet], who’s now my friend, who was in the movie with me, were like, ‘Oh my God, how’s he going to shoot this, really close up, like, am I going to take my wedding dress off, how’s it going to be seen?’ And then we get to set, the camera’s so far away, and everything’s being shot from this really long distance. I was like, ‘Thank God – Hallelujah!’ That was the most nerve-wracking for me, just because it’s so awkward, I don’t know how I’m going to phase into sex scenes as an adult, because I also had one to do not that long ago, and it’s so awkward, it’s the worst. I hate them!”

The actress says that despite all of the high angst on display on screen, she tried to create a lighter mood when she wasn’t shooting. “I was playing Angry Birds in my trailer,” she reveals. “You’ve got a light zone; you have to self-preserve, that’s part of it too: you don’t have to sit there and BE depressed to PLAY depressed. You actually should be in a good place to play depressed. We were making a very heavy thing, and there were definitely days where there were the scenes I would have to prepare for, but making a movie doesn’t have to be drudgery just because of the subject matter. There was a lot of lightness, too.”

"Melancholia" opens in limited release today

Contact Us