“When [Francois] Truffaut spoke to me about doing the score for the film, I said, ‘…You’re a great friend of [avant-garde composers] and this is a film that takes place in the future. Why shouldn’t you ask one of them? ‘Oh no, no,’ he said. ‘They’ll give me music of the twentieth century, but you’ll give me music of the twenty-first.’
I felt that the music of the next century would revert to a great lyrical simplicity and that it wouldn’t have truck with all this mechanistic stuff. Their lives would be scrutinized. In their music they would want something of simple nudity, of great elegance and simplicity. So I said, ‘If I do your picture, that’s the kind of score I want to write- strings, harps, and a few percussion instruments. I’m not interested in all this whoopee stuff that goes on being called the music of the future. I think that’s the music of the past.’”
-Herrmann, quoted in Steven Smith’s A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Musicof Bernard Herrmann
Matters about the idea of the end of the world seems to always bring to my mind the one thing that ever stayed with me when our favorite world mythologist, Joseph Campbell, once said that the end of the world should not be thought of as an event to come and referred to it as the annihilation of an old way of living in the world. “It is an event of psychological transformation, of visionary transformation. You see not the world of solid things but a world of radiance,” Campbell said.
While not as conclusive to Campbell’s interpretation, Melancholia does serve up a nice picturesque dichotomy between two opposing effects of imposing doom on the human psyche. There was a sense of weight, a sense of burden, and a sense of relief all in one fell swoop of a scene and it was magnificent.
“I’m trudging through this grey wooly yarn, it’s clinging to my legs; it’s really heavy to drag along.”