Modern apocalypse: Von Trier's 'Melancholia' stares death down

Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" opens with music from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," mourning and apocalyptic, and disturbing images of a world not right. A woman dressed as a bride runs through a forest whose branches seem to grab at her in a Disney nightmare. She floats in a pond, holding flowers, like Ophelia. Another woman makes her way with a child over marshy grass that sucks at her. Looming in the sky is another planet, vast in size. The Earth is about to end.
    These scenes are isolated prologue. As time begins to run, we meet a newlywed couple being driven to their wedding party at a grand estate. It is a small gathering, only large enough to establish that few in this family can abide one another, and some may be mad. The bride is Justine (Kirsten Dunst). Her husband is Michael (Alexander Skarsgaard). Her sister is Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Their estranged parents are Gaby (Charlotte Rampling) and Dexter (John Hurt). The mansion is owned by the brother-in-law John (Keifer Sutherland). Joining the party is Jack     (Stellan Skarsgaard), Justine's boss, who owns an ad agency and is attending primarily to wrest an advertising tagline from her. The wedding planner is played by the ominous Udo Kier, who you will agree is correctly cast to run a wedding at the end of the world.
    Not much of an attempt is made to fashion these people into a plot anything like a wedding party you've seen in a movie before. Even when the bride steals out of her husband's bed to have rough sex in the sand trap of a golf course, there is no sense of intrigue, just a desperate acting out. Every moment is saturated with the common knowledge that Earth is about to collide with an enormous planet named Melancholia. Full review.

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