The Hunters in the Snow (Bruegel the Elder, 1565) appears in both Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972) and Melancholia
(von Trier, 2011.) Since each of the films respond to a very different economic base, the ways Tarkovsky and von Trier work with the painting might clarify the distinction between two cinematic regimes.
The three images all share a certain proximity between work and reproduction. In the painting, hunters return to a town, reintegrating and provisioning a social whole. The residents of the space station in Solaris reproduce themselves and work in the same place. In Melancholia, the work of advertising permeates Justine’s wedding so deeply as to render rituals of reproduction indiscernible from the labor of exchange.
Both films involve contact between humans and another planet as well as an apocalyptic tone.
Solaris shows the painting in Hari‘s point of view as a special object within mise en scène. The camera moves along its surface, reframing it via movements Tarkovsky reserves for the presentation of artworks. The camera hovers close to the canvas. Cuts and dissolves make its gestures contrast a framing that enlarges the detail and expressivity of Bruegel’s depiction of the hunters dogs with another framing that emphasizes the sketchiness of the animals in the background. Melancholia presents The Hunters In The Snow as imminent to the film’s plane of composition: the animation at the beginning fuses von Trier’s film with Bruegel’s painting and implies a subjectivity watching an impending disaster through the optic of the film’s revision of the painting.
A work dominated by multiplying repetitive temporalities, Solaris tries to invent a form of time that could mediate between a structurally cyclical, yet finite, temporality of a romantic couple(made game-like by Nachträglichkeit,) and the necessarily open and unbound temporality of the social. In Melancholia, the familial axioms that guarantee capital the personal subjects necessary to its valorization can’t be discerned from the very flows of money and people in need of their regulation: the auto-abjecting dominant classes subject themselves to the futureless time of debt. In both movies, the temporal complications unfold from the figure of women’s domestic labor, as do the modes of presentation and beholding surrounding the Hunters In The Snow.