Friday, May 20, 2011

Bereft in Chaos

I never thought Lars von Trier would cause me to laugh hysterically. Though I guess it's actually the board at Cannes that's making me laugh for expelling von Trier from the festival for these comments (they come after the clips of his new film Melancholia);

What a bunch of oversensitive dimwits running Cannes. I guess attempting to joke in English is dangerous when it's not your first language, but I think it's pretty clear he's being absurd.

Anyway, apparently this is somehow tangentially related to his extensive use of Wagner in his new film. Which would be the latest in a long line of movie soundtracks to take good advantage of Wagner, from directly using his work, as in the case of Excalibur, to soundtracks that reference bits of his Ring cycle like the Willow soundtrack and, of course, Vertigo.

I watched Götterdämmerung a few days ago and I was surprised when I caught very distinctly bits reminiscent of the scene in Vertigo where Scottie embraces Judy after he's forced her to dress as Madeleine. It makes sense, as Götterdämmerung largely revolves around the male lead, Siegfried, deceiving Brunnhilde, his wife, by disguising himself as another man. The male and female roles are almost reversed, except Brunnhilde doesn't force him to dress as Gunther afterward. Though she does desire to take revenge, calling on Wotan to do so at the same time Hagen calls on the powers of the Nibelung to kill Siegfried and take back the ring. So all the powers of good and evil are set against Siegfried, the consummately innocent kid from the previous opera.

Well, not so innocent, since he apparently raped Brunnhilde in the guise of Gunther. It's an interesting question, actually, what the rape means. If one considers the way people thought of sex in the time Wagner wrote his operas, Siegfried having sex with his own wife may not have been considered rape. Yet Siegfried doesn't know it's his wife when he's deceiving her because his memory has been temporarily wiped, and it does feel like Siegfried deserved the wrath of heaven.

Siegfried still seems like a kid, and it's questionable whether or not he has the emotional maturity to understand when taking his own pleasure is harmful to someone else. He'd never even seen a woman before Brunnhilde, having grown up with only a dwarf who'd raised him just for his own selfish ends.

Mainly, the point of Götterdämmerung seems to be that the world exists in a moral chaos without the gods around. It's the breaking of Wotan's spear, and the bad circumstances of the wolf son's birth that conspire to create an evil existence. Which is not to say Siegfried's not responsible for his actions. He kind of reminds me of Lenny from Of Mice and Men.

It's interesting how Hagen becomes a sort of replacement Wotan--carrying around a spear to witness oaths as Wotan had done, and kind of abruptly holding up two dead ravens as a sign to Siegfried that he deserves his punishment. And yet, of course, Hagen was an accessory to Siegfried's crimes.

The funeral music, the section that plays after Siegfried dies, is one of the best bits of music ever written in my opinion. It comes right after the mortally wounded Siegfried has been singing of Brunnhilde, having just drunk a potion that restored his memory. The contrast between the two songs emphasises how death is so much bigger and stranger than Siegfried's crimes and virtues. No wonder Lars von Trier likes it.

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