For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by stories about the end of the world. Post-apocalyptic stuff like The Stand or Earth Abides or The Road – wherein small bands of survivors struggle to survive and maintain human civilization – are okay, but what I’m really drawn to are stories (like Last Night or On The Beach) where EVERYBODY dies.* For a variety of reasons people have always had an appetite for tales of the apocalypse, but what I’m interested in for the purposes of this blog post is my personal reaction to them. Which brings me to Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. Julia and I saw it a month ago and while I didn’t think it was entirely successful, it has stuck with me for reasons I will attempt to explain here.
I don’t think it counts as a spoiler to tell you that the film begins with a shot of the titular massive blue planet colliding with Earth and completely destroying it. The thing is, Melanchoia is no more about the literal end of the world than The Hit (a great film about death and how people prepare for and approach it) is about crime. It doesn’t attempt to realistically depict what might transpire in the face of the events the movie dramatizes; the astrophysics are pretty ludicrous and society’s collective reaction to a new planet that may or may not collide with Earth seems rather muted.