Melancholia is a rather proficient political thriller despite not being particularly thrilling. Anyone looking for a straight commercial thriller should move along; this is strictly existential stuff about a former idealist who is reawakened from his respectable wilderness and returned to a previous commitment he once held for direct political action.
One evening he receives an unexpected phone call that catalyses him from his moral inertia; a voice from his past in Hamburg, Manfred (Ulrich Wildgruber) informs him that Vargas, a torturer of Pinochet's Chile, is visiting London for a conference. Manfred persuades Keller that he is ideally placed to assassinate the sadistic fascist for the cause and puts him in touch with one of Vargas' victims Sarah Yelin (British actress Jane Gurnett surprisingly convincing enough as a Chilean), whose husband was also horribly murdered by Vargas.
Written and directed by Andi Engel, Melancholia proved to be his only venture into film. It seems like a personal piece, indeed Engel was a German born, London based art critic and exhibitor with a political past, so we must presume that once the itch had been scratched, Engel was satisfied. He delivers the tension beautifully in the film's thriller elements and captures the contemplative side with a real atmospheric aplomb, along with excellent location work in London and Hamburg. He also has a great leading man in the elegantly weary looking Krabbé, who convinces both as Keller the arty type, and as Keller the ruthlessly efficient assassin for a cause. he helps personalise the issues in the most wonderfully subtle, underplayed manner that is totally in keeping with a film that explores its provocative themes in a mature and intelligent manner.
Writer/director Andi Engel with Jeroen Krabbé on set