Film-Philosophy Conference, Film-Philosophy Conference 2012

Frozen in Time: Temporality and Affect in "Melancholia"

Ulrike Hanstein


My paper explores the contradictory forms of time — both cosmological and of the human subject — which are invoked by the images of planets and earthlings in Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011). Most of the motion pictures we encounter (re-) present time by means of a narrative structure. With regard to modern cinema (Deleuze 1985) and digital cinematography (Stewart 2007) new forms of irregular time have been proposed to elucidate the images’ striking relations to movement, time, and space. In modern and contemporary cinema the visual and sonic images generate non-linear or paradoxical forms of time. Nevertheless, these time-images are closely related to fictional characters’ perspective on—or experience of—time.

By contrast in Melancholia time is a generative power, which transcends the time scale of the characters’ ordinary world. Thus, my discussion of Melancholia focuses on the images’ temporal complexities and their invention of various forms and images of time: the unchanging time of depression, the asynchronous intervals of remembering the past or anticipating the future, the non-human scale of celestial movements, the forward-looking orientation of scientific prognosis, the extraordinary moments of rituals and celebrations, and the apocalyptic end of time. In Melancholia time is not articulated by its links with definite spatial and causal configurations. Instead, the images present a non-linear and dynamic form of time that connects manifold views of the world on the macro- and micro-levels. Drawing on the negative reading of time elaborated by Michael Theunissen, my paper postulates that in Melancholia the images display inconsistent temporalities, which punctuate the viewers’ affective responses.

Only abstracts are available on this site

About the Presenter

Ulrike Hanstein
Bauhaus-Universität Weimar