Despite a dauntingly uninviting title, Melancholia proves to be a stimulating contemporary thriller about an idealist from the 1960s who decides to take violent action in support of his long-submerged beliefs.
Jeroen Krabbe plays a German, Keller, long resident in London, who works as a critic, lives alone and drinks too much. He is aroused from his inertia by a phone call from Hamburg from Manfred, who asks him to assassinate a Chilean torturer Vargas, currently visiting London.
Manfred later visits London to tell Keller the assassination is off: the Chilean can now be of use to ‘our side.’ Soon after, Keller is approached by Sarah Yelin (Jane Gurnett), a torture victim, whose husband was horribly murdered by Vargas. He makes up his mind and tracks down the Chilean.
The film raises questions about the use of violence to prevent further violence, and about the passivity of idealists. It doesn’t play as a straight commercial thriller, but as a serious pic exploring provocative themes with intelligence.
Melancholia is the first film directed by Andi Engel, the German-born, London-based former critic who’s best known as a distributor and exhibitor in Britain.