Lars von Trier’s audacious three-hour Depression-era visit to a Rocky Mountain hamlet is a sort of twin evil cousin of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town
. A stranger (Nicole Kidman) fleeing gangsters is first shielded and then abused, as power over the guest corrupts the collective moral fiber of the entire local populace. The filmmaker’s bleak, scathing spin on humanity—or, quite possibly, America—gives a game all-star cast (including Lauren Bacall, Paul Bettany, Patricia Clarkson, Chloë Sevigny, Stellan Skarsgård, Ben Gazzara and James Caan) nothing but shallow musings and hysteria on which to chew. The production is a visually hypnotic but failed experiment in filmed theater, shot entirely on a soundstage with only a few props and white outlines on the floor to denote individual homes.