Lars Von Trier's New Competition at Cannes Film Festival

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Lars Von Trier's "Melancholia," Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" among Palme d'Or hopefuls.

BERLIN - Lars Von Trier will have some rare local competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, when the Danish director’s Melancholia goes up against Drive, by fellow Dane Nicolas Winding Refn.

Von Trier is no stranger to Cannes - Melancholia will mark his ninth appearance on the croisette - and the shock and controversy that surround his Cannes premieres are a festival tradition. With Antichrist, which premiered in 2009 and won the best actress prize for Charlotte Gainsbourg, Von Trier set a new bar – high or low depending on your taste – for the festival scandal film.

But Von Trier aside, Cannes has been long been cold on Danish cinema.  Danish filmmakers are rarely invited to Competition and many of the country’s leading directors - Susanne Bier, Lone Scherfig, Soren Kragh-Jacobsen – typically head to Sundance or Berlin instead. Only two Danes have ever won the Palme d’Or: Von Trier for Dancer in the Dark and Billie August – twice – for Pelle The Conqueror and The Best Intentions.

Nicolas Winding Refn will be trying to become the third when his English-language thriller Drive debuts in Cannes next month. Refn has attracted attention with his critically-acclaimed Pusher drug trilogy as well as Norse actioner Valhalla Rising. Drive stars Ryan Gosling as a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for professional thieves. Carey Mulligan, Ron Pearlman, Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks also star.

Melancholia, billed as a beautiful film about the end of the world is Lars Von Trier’s take on the science-fiction genre, and features Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgard.

A third Dane will be heading to Cannes, out of competition. Frederikke Aspock’s debut, Labrador, a drama set on an isolated Swedish island, has received a special screening slot.