independent

Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Melancholia' and how we live our lives

FR MICHAEL COMMANE

WE WERE to have gone to another film, but it began too late so we went to see Lars von Trier's Melancholia. During the first 15 to 20 minutes I simply wanted to get up and leave. The introduction was most annoying. I can well understand why The Guardian newspaper reviewer referred to the film as tedious.

But I stuck with it and glad I did. It is now almost a month since I saw the film and every time I see or hear the behaviour of people I am forced to think about the film.

Justine, the bride, is ' specially gifted' from the beginning of the film to realise that everything about the world is pointless – there is nothing to it but 'evil'.

So when the world is threatened by another 'planet' she does not fret or grow surprised.

But she does ' protect' her little nephew by telling him of the pending disaster and then building for him a ' magic cave', in which he, Justine – Kirsten Dunst – and Justine's sister, go for protection.

The little boy believes he is safe. But of course no one is safe. The planet Melancholia collides with the earth and the film ends with a great ball of fire.

Melancholia is about the nonsense of life, the world, our perception of our own importance.

For anyone engaged in trying to say anything about the Word of God the film might make some sense. It might well be an antidote for silly, trite preaching. There are no platitudes in this film. It cut away and into everything and at the end nothing is left.

It jeers at all our nonsense, our wealth, our pomposity, our grandeur, all the things that we are so often told are vitally important, the things to which we aspire.

In the last few days I called to a house looking for someone. It turned out it was the wrong address. It was the afternoon and a woman came to the window. It seemed she was still in her nightgown. She was probably in her early seventies. Maybe I am completely wrong but it seemed to me that there was an emptiness about her face. She also looked sad. After a brief few words between us I went away and kept asking myself what life is all about.

We live our lives in a type of isolation. We have no idea how other people live out their lives. And very often newspapers, TV and radio create images for us that have so little to do with what life really is like and about.

Reading extracts from Colm Keena's book on Bertie Ahern again forced me to think of von Trier's film.

Most of us end up believing the package we have been sold. Have you ever heard a capitalist condemn capitalism, a teacher criticise the teaching profession, a journalist blaming the media for our woes? The simple answer is, seldom if ever.

The current Presidential election is a brilliant example of people saying nothing. Could anyone dare glean what the candidates really think from their ' manifestos'? This campaign is a great example of how words and expressed ideas can be so far removed from what's inside people's heads.

Do we ever know who anyone is? And so much of what we hear is trite. It's one of the aspects about fundamental-style Christianity, indeed, any religion, that is so difficult to take; do this or that and you will be 'saved'. It can't be like that at all. Or can it?

Has it ever struck you how most of us go with the flow? The more sophisticated box cleverer. But we are all bound up in our culture, our environment. And it would be ghastly for any of us to think that we are outside that loop.

While I'm glad I did not leave the film in the first 20 minutes, it has left me with an awful lot of pained and anguished questions. But surely that's good.

After all, Christianity stresses it's God who takes the initiative and we have the possibility in sharing in his saving work.

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