John Colburn on Lars Von Trier

by on Jul.28, 2012

Minneapolis poet John Colburn is interviewed at The Spectral Evidence, about, among other things, Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia:

So Melancholia for me is a fable about truth-telling at the end of civilization, or at least a certain type of civilization, and a meditation on the inevitability of chaos. Trotsky said that the first characteristic of a really revolutionary party is to be able to look reality in the face. And it seems so simple to say capitalism and patriarchy are destructive to us, let’s begin building something else, but neoliberalism won’t allow that discussion. And rather than an escapist apocalyptic fantasy in which technology may save us from The Ending, or in which the actions of the hero allow the human ego to survive, Von Trier gives us a truth. Frued’s idea of melancholia as a pathological response or a generalized form of mourning is accepted here as a basic part of the human condition, one that we repress. But I think the film is against repression and it’s certainly about letting go of harmful illusions. Though it’s not completely cynical. Yes, each of us will end. But the last act that Dunst’s character engages in is to make a piece of art and embody it, to make of her life a shamanic performance. And to make art of her life in the face of her impending disappearance – not art for the ages, the ego, to outlast our bodies, but art to deepen our most truthful experience of now – that’s the project. Maybe it’s cynical that Dunst’s character is in her element in the apocalypse – the closer the destruction comes, the less depressed and more capable, even ecstatic she becomes. She’s trapped in a patriarchal illusion she has already seen through and its destruction may be liberating, although frightening. The characters finally reach integration in the acceptance of their destruction – they find the ability to love simultaneously with acceptance of the death of their own egos. I love how high the stakes are in many of Von Trier’s films, and how human and bodily they are at the same time, and how they attack the accepted consensus reality without mercy.

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