1 March 2012 by Pelle Neroth
Lars von Trier's Melancholia features a planet 20 times the size of Earth colliding with our terrestrial home. The supersize wandering planet is also called "Melancholia" and some critics have speculated that it is a metaphor for depression: big, overwhelming, darkens the sky. The main character in the film, although she is getting married, is deeply depressed. You can tell by her behaviour and visible anguish during the wedding.
When she walks out on the manor lawn and sees an orb in the sky that is not the moon, which then grows in the course of the film as the guests party and relax in the ensuing days, is she really seeing a planet or is she only imagining it - a concrete manifestation of her own blues? A symbol of how her depression will ruin her marriage? Well, to her sister and other wedding guests it soon seems real enough.
The comedy bit is presumably the triviality of the bride's parents' old quarrels being aired again when the world is about to end. The bride, played by Kirsten Dunst, lies naked on the lawn one night as the planet is big in the sky. Is it a symbolic self sacrifice? The fact that what can obliterate you can also be intensely sexual? The film does end with the world in flames: but calmly so. So, no TV helicopters or last minute nuclear counter missions led by an air-punching president. This is not a rousing American popcorn movie
It is nevertheless so over the top you can cackle with laughter. Or, if you are in the mood for it, think of it as a useful contribution to the taboo and off-putting subject of mental health. But von Trier is also riffing on one of the internet memes of last year: that the world will end in 2012 after a collision with a giant wandering planet. There is no mention of "Nibiru" in the posh papers or the BBC website. But the internet is full of videos and writings about it. There are nearly 60,000 mentions on Youtube, fewer than "Einstein", but more than "climate change". NASA's "Ask an Astrobiologist" scientists report being deluged by worried and angry letters, including death threats: hundreds a week, and it is getting worse.
Many of the videos on Youtube purport to show filmings of Nibiru as a ghostly orb close to the setting sun.
In fact, these apparitions are obviously just the common optical consequence of pointing a camera lens at the sun. The space agencies have even set up websites that calmly explain scientifically why the world will not end this year. But explanations, of course, are seen as part of the fiendishly clever cover up. An alarming recent Eurobarometer poll shows widespread estrangement from the general public towards scientists.
The irony, of course, is that that there is growing scepticism to global warming, a real threat to the world.
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 01 March 2012 04:14 AM General
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