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Lars von Trier's Melancholia

Apocalypse OK, whatever

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A mysterious planet heads straight for earth, threatening to destroy all human life. The same premise has animated numerous sci-fi adventures, but this elegant drama by Danish writer-director Lars von Trier (Dogville, Antichrist) applies it to more philosophical ends. Von Trier came up with the idea after his shrink pointed out to him that depressed people often react more calmly to a crisis than happy ones, because they already understand that life is nasty, brutish, and short. To that end, the filmmaker divides his story into two parts, named for a pair of siblings: Justine (Kirsten Dunst), who descends into catatonic misery as her malignant friends and relatives celebrate her wedding at a rented mansion, and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), whose cheery facade begins to crumble as the rogue planet grows ever larger in the sky. Apocalyptic visions are nothing new in cinema, but they're almost always epic in scale; Von Trier's innovation is to peer down the large end of the telescope, observing the end of the world in painfully intimate terms. With Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, and Stellan Skarsgard.

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