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Kirsten Dunst’s Breakout Film



Lars von Trier’s Melancholia opened in Manhattan today, and it is a hauntingly beautiful tale of the approach of what appears to be the end of the world. Kirsten Dunst shows marvelous range as a young woman who would have plenty of emotional issues to cope with, even if there were not another planet hurtling toward Earth; Charlotte Gainsbourg is convincing as her steadier, but equally perplexed sister; and 24’s Kiefer Sutherland provides the right level of reassurance as Gainsbourg’s scientist husband (when this guy starts to look worried, you know it’s time to panic).

Von Trier has done some wonderful work in the past; his most famous film is 1996’s Breaking the Waves, but his best (and also funniest) work is the two-part series for Danish TV, The Kingdom (1994) and The Kingdom II (1997). He achieved a measure of pop-culture notoriety for some dumb comments he made at Cannes a few months ago; Melancholia should do a great deal to solidify his standing as an artist in the wake of that blunder.

Von Trier’s vision of a wedding party at the impending apocalypse will stick with viewers who are lucky enough to see this film on a large screen. The main achievement, though, is Kirsten Dunst’s. She carries the movie, by making the concept credible: Her character’s response to disasters foreseen and unforeseen is that of a real person, with the result that it’s hard to stop watching her, and hard to stop caring about what happens to her and the others she cares about.


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