melancholia

12/30/11

Melancholia late yesterday afternoon, approaching year’s end, an appropriate film in certain ways if not exactly typical holiday fare.  It would make a curious double bill with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:

There may trouble ahead’

But while there’s music and moonlight

And love and romance

Let’s face the music and dance

And curiously, for me at least those lines aren’t a bad summary of the von Trier film, which is a beautiful piece of work, scorching in its honesty but also leaving me oddly buoyant as I left the theater and walked back onto into the rain on an early Seattle December night.  .  A heart full, held within that ‘magic cave’ that Justine – the Kirsten Dunst character – fabricates with the help of her nephew Leo, a cave made of long sticks, a cave in only the most imaginative sense, which in fact is the point – little illusion in it, little by way of literal protection, a cave I suppose in the same way that chalk lines are walls in Dogville –and in the way that movies themselves are actual places, and the same way that movie theaters are magic caves. This is a cave that you can literally see through: but as Blake insisted, to see through  can also mean to see by means of.    And we do.

 A few sticks against the descent of the massive planet Melancholia is itself an intentionally obvious allegory, something we see through – a lens.  Depression, acedia, the massive weight that von Trier himself experiences in life but which also does powerfully and visually (and audibly in the rich use of Wagner) depict some feeling that many of us have of a doomed planet, a doomed species – all of this sheer gravity and pull of a kind of beautiful destructive power (commerce, commercials, capitalism, western oil-eating culture?)  — and with only a few propped up sticks as defense . . . .

And yet there it is, a magic cave.  It does nothing to stop the end of the world; it does not keep death at bay –and yet (my feeling, perhaps not von Trier’s) it is not solely illusion, but rather something real is generated from it as we see in the change in Leo, who sits inside the cave, eyes closed, with a rather peaceful sense about him – and Justine beside him, resigned, accepting –who knows? – while her sister Clair cries uncontrollably, who’s answer to the disaster (root of the word:  dis –astra, from the stars) is to have a glass of wine and sit on the porch, to which Justine says: that’s a piece of shit – meaning it’s a lie, it’s an attempt to live in denial which Justine like von Trier will have none of –

And so even inside the magic cave the planet Melancholia descends and the earth is obliterated – and perhaps it’s all gone,, all the movies, all the books, all the music, nothing remains.  There is no other life than here, Justine tells Clair, and now it’s about to all end.  Maybe so.  And yet I leave the film convinced otherwise, convinced that the three of them sitting inside the magic cave (the three, the number of ongoing relationship, creation, trinity), that the love that prompts Justine’s action for Leo – and the very simple ritual of creating the cave – that this is what survives: not the sticks, and not even the fleshly lives of the humans within the frame, but that other, that invisible quality that prompts the creation, the making – that poesis itself survives, and whatever is in us that is of  this – that too survives. 

The love of the making, and of the thing made: this is the generating force, this Wisdom,  and it does not burn out.