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Melancholia 

Lars Von Trier's sci-fi psychodrama succeeds beautifully at making the complex simple

click to enlarge Not long for this earth? Kirsten Dunst
  • Not long for this earth? Kirsten Dunst

"Life is only on Earth, and not for long," Justine (Kirsten Dunst), who suffers from crippling depression, tells her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainbourg), who does not. That is, until scientists discover Melancholia, a hidden planet hurtling toward Earth. The more compelling Part 1 of Melancholia, Lars von Trier's less-odd-than-usual new film, is called "Justine," and it takes place at her wedding, populated by selfish and demanding family and friends. The much less interesting Part 2, "Claire," concerns Melancholia, where Justine welcomes the relief of death, and Claire slowly becomes unhinged as her illusory life of order and privilege faces its horrifying mortality. Von Trier's sci-fi psychodrama succeeds beautifully at making the complex simple: Like Malick's Tree of Life, von Trier didn't need his grandiose metaphor to explore the pain and disappointment of life on Earth. (Altman and Bergman, to name only a few, told the same sort of stories with organic metaphors.) But Melancholia is still an often moving look at our corrosive human nature, filmed in the intimate herky-jerky Dogme style that the director helped to invent. The outstanding à la mode cast includes Charlotte Rampling, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Udo Kier and the Skarsgård men, Stellan and Alexander, pere and fils -- a lineup that's not quite out of this world, but not quite of it, either. Manor.

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Melancholia
Rated R

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