Tuesday, August 25, 2015

And You Don't Know The Way



Clinical depression has been a challenge for me since I was at least three years old; I've been told by doctors that I might have been neurologically unusual right from birth. Whatever conditions brought it about, it's cost me more than I'd care to examine too closely. But in recent years I've come to accept it as a truth of life; I no longer fear it. When it creeps up on me, there it is. I know it now, as I might know a field or a hillside.

For that reason, I found Melancholia reassuring. It described a world, a condition that I understand, and the ending of the film actually left me feeling calm and whole. In fact, I feel better now than I have in weeks. I know the feeling won't last, but I welcome it.

Watching this for a second time, I had to question all the negative reviews. Yes, the often-shaky camera style seemed a poor aesthetic choice, and I would rather have had an original score that reflected the film itself, to music that already brings its own associations. But otherwise, I loved Melancholia.

Up to a point, the film reminds me of Bergman's Shame, where the two main characters also respond to the end of the world in opposite and unexpected ways. The coping mechanisms that we develop to handle depression often make ordinary life unliveable, but can be surprisingly useful when things fall apart.

Unlike Shame, which is one of the more depressing and paralyzing films I've seen (and brilliantly so), Melancholia feels like a lifted weight, like a wall kicked apart. Its final moment feels like love... and liberation.

Afterward, I kept thinking of a sad, stark line from another severely underrated film: Peckinpah's Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia. During an ugly, confrontational moment, the heroine turns to the main character, and says, "I've been down this road before, and you don't know the way." For me, that one line would sum up Melancholia.



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