Lars von Trier’s Melancholia is the Danish provocateur’s much-anticipated (and surprisingly well-received) follow-up to his polarizing Antichrist (one of 2009′s best). This time he directs Kirsten Dunst in a Cannes Film Festival Best Actress award-winning performance as, ahem, melancholy newlywed Justine who spends part I (roughly the first hour) enduring the aftermath of her wedding at the sprawling and gorgeous home of her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg, continuing her emotionally brutal collaboration with von Trier; she won Best Actress at Cannes for their previous film) and her brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). What should be the happiest day of Justine’s life feels uncannily like the end of her world; groom Alexander Skarsgard picks up on this. In part II, the sense of impending doom is amplified as Melancholia, a bright blue planet, enters Earth’s atmosphere and threatens to plummet on a deliberately-paced collision course. Von Trier watches as first Justine and then Claire are virtually crippled by feelings of helplessness and despair – but not fear. It is certainly the most visually stunning depiction of apocalyptic horror this year – and there was competition.

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