Tuesday, January 17, 2012


How it feels to blog.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


SPOILER ALERT (Don't read if you plan to see the movie)

The year of the psychological planetary drama might have not been everyone's favorite, but someone had to prepare us for the worst in case 2012 is really the last year of the Aztecs. And just like no one stops to ponder on Aztec optimism - after all, they did overshoot their demise by about half a millennium - no one has traced the optimistic subtext underlying these apocalyptic pieces.

Superciliously colonial jokes aside, Melancholia was a definitely glass-full movie for me, and all people can mention is how vividly it portrays depression or how cynical it is about institutions. Just today I read a post (in Spanish) claiming that the best part of the film was that the movie's "bipolar snobs end up getting what they deserve." Before that, Castro develops a pretty good analysis of the male/female system going on in Von Trier's filmography, and explains the man's suicidal reaction lucidly. However, he then claims that the women's final reaction is "childish and superstitious," which is where we need to look back at the film.

There are two obsessions about this movie: depression and catastrophe. An anhedonic Kirsten Dunst (Justine) does a pretty good job of representing "depression," although I'd hardly call it very hard work. And yes, an enormous planet is about to destroy the Earth.

The three adult characters then represent different reactions to this impending clash - suicidal (refusal), hysterical (denial), and calm (acceptance). Kirsten's character through the movie renounces all beliefs and institutions and decides to mope around lasciviously and, in general, exude apathy.

Then comes the end, and Justine, out of pity for the scared little boy (whose father has killed himself and mother is too busy savagely sobbing to console him), actually builds a minuscule hut for the three of them. This hut wouldn't have so much importance, if it weren't for a deceivingly minor scene in the movie when Justine rearranges the books on display in the mansion's study (or one of them).

When I see that, and when I see the final symbol of the hut, I see a tremendous act of optimism on the part of Von Trier, even if it might be the most doomed and depressing example of optimism anyone could think of.

Through Justine (the character that gets most often associated with the director himself), Von Trier is clearly saying that despite the impending cataclysm, despite the overwhelming certainty that death is closing in, there is still a reason to create art, even if just to protect a child's naive faith in humanity. But that faith has to be worth something, and the primitive symbol is an attempt to save it. It's a shelter and a ritual, the origin and the purpose of art in the absolute tragedy of consciousness.