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Reply To: Don’t Look Up: The Doomsday Dilettante,” with mythologist Norland Téllez”

#74522

With respect to the ending of the film, I do think, like Robert, that the film does provide a solution, but I see it very differently.

Always in terms of the film, I see beneath the apparent pessimistic tones of the Last Supper scene, which moves within the groves of the Christian myth, an ultimately optimistic redemptive core. There is redemption in the end; it is possible to trick the devil with the devil himself, allowing the devil to fall into its own trap the way Isherwell does in the new planet.

The image of the family dinner, a kind of thanksgiving “holy family,” does connote the image of the Last Supper in the Christian story. This is also an archetypal image on its own right which forebodes the Hero’s Sacrifice and eventual Resurrection. Within the frame of the Christian myth, the “failure” of the hero, the hero’s crucifiction, becomes a sign of its “success” or redemption. Such is the paradoxical language of true myth as vera narratio. Although I don’t want to get lost in a theological discussion, the inclusion of this image in no way points to the abandonment of the hero. On the contrary, it is the hero’s ultimate sign of completion: it is finished.

If we stick to the imagery of the movie, I don’t see how the ending—or the whole movie— means that we should accept our collective demise as a “natural” occurrence. There was nothing natural in the process that led to the movie’s conclusion. That sounds like a different kind of movie—a truly pessimistic one. (I think of a movie like Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011) as better fitting a depressive description).  But everything that led to the demise of humanity in Don’t Look Up happened through the “unnatural” agency of human beings, of our hyper individualistic uprooted culture, which is splintered by ideologies and fanatical beliefs with very little rationality to go around, and which is ultimately taken over the brink by the very hero this culture worships: Peter Isherwell, who is the truly “Satanic” figure of the movie.

At the heart of the movie’s tragic ending, no doubt, there is a sense of a collective failure of responsibility, for which our beloved protagonists would have to pay with their dear lives. Nevertheless, in the beautiful prayer spoken by Yule (Timothée Chalamet) which I think very powerfully puts forth the still living core of the Christian myth quite beautifully:

That is the sad ending of the movie where, I claim, most people get stuck. Moreover, after this point, they even stop watching or hearing what the movie is saying beyond this point. That’s why I thought it would be interesting to concentrate on those parts which virtually everybody misses or glosses over—probably because it was mixed with the rolling of the end credits.

So I get why audiences are “bummed out” by the destruction of the whole planet in the end, especially with the beautiful score leading there, written by Brittel for the final scene of the Last Supper called Memento Mori. Nevertheless, in a paradoxical way, a fundamentally optimistic message makes itself felt in the final acceptance of the inevitable.