This is the end of the world, Scandinavian-style

If Roland Emmerich is right, we’re all going to die in a spectacular crash of exploding skyscrapers, flaming earthquakes, and city-sized tidal waves.

If Lars von Trier’s right, we’re all going to die feeling really glum. This is the end of the world, Scandinavian-style. Relentlessly bleak yet beautiful, von Trier’s absurd art-house disaster movie is near-visionary filmmaking on an operatic scale.

Opening in extreme slow motion – with surreal hi-def shots of horses crumpling to their knees, birds falling from the sky and feet sinking into a golf course green – the pace never really changes. Justine (Kirsten Dunst) turns up late for her own wedding reception and quickly falls into a depressed stupor.

Sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her astronomer husband (Kiefer Sutherland) try their best to rouse her, but they’re a bit worried about the giant blue planet (named Melancholia) hurtling towards Earth.

The first half is a typically dour Dogme-esque family portrait, but the awkward speeches and uncomfortable silences are soon stifled by impending disaster. Dunst deservedly won Best Actress at Cannes for her glassy-eyed performance, which manages to push the interplanetary apocalypse into the background.

The most romantic film of the year (in the grim, literary sense), von Trier’s heady melodrama feels like dreaming underwater. Exquisitely photographed and set to a sweeping Wagnerian score, it might be the great Dane’s most cinematic movie yet.

The only possible companion for Malick’s Tree Of Life, it’s just as ambitious, and almost as bold. Extras include pithy featurettes and a von Trier yak track.

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