Apocalypse Then and Now: Verdens Undergang (1916) and Melancholia (2011)

Mark B. Sandberg 1
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Mark B. Sandberg


A comparison of two films about the end of the world by astronomical collision, Verdens Undergang (1916) and Melancholia (2011), reveals crucial differences in their structuring of apocalyptic time. Although similar moments of cultural impasse (World War I and the present moment) can partly explain the appeal of an apocalyptic narrative in each case, the pleasures of von Trier’s film do not come from the compensatory sense of ordered time and moral clarity that end-of-the-world scenarios typically afford. Instead, Melancholia explores the paradoxes of post-apocalyptic perception, not from a position of true survival or social regeneration, but as a vestigial fictional space that persists even beyond the supposed total obliteration of life.

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