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Fear and Trembling in von Trier's Medea

Michael Convery

over 2 years ago

This may be a stretch, but did anyone else sense that von Trier’s Medea had Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling in its conception?

In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard juxtaposes Abraham and Agamemnon
Agamemnon is a Hero who sacrificed his own daughter for a greater universal cause within the ideological context of Homeric Greece.
Abraham is a Knight of Faith who was willing to sacrifice his only hard-earned son because God said to, believing that even if he kill’s Isaac, God’s promise that Isaac will father a nation will happen. Yes, it’s absurd, but that’s the point for Kierkegaard. Faith isn’t universal and reasonable, it’s personal and absurd.
Oddly, Kierkegaard never mentions that other infamous filicide, Medea.

Is von Trier’s film using allusions to Fear and Trembling to gain a new or deeper perspective on Medea?

It came to mind when Medea kills her children it a style unlike Euripides’ Medea but rather like Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Euripides has Medea kill her children behind closed doors, von Trier has the slaughter happen on a sacrificial-like hill. Euripides has the children totally ignorant of their fate, while von Trier gives the older son an Isaac-like compliance and knowledge. Also, that quote at the end that says God can make the unbelievable happen is very Kierkegaardian.

And finally, Dryer, who explicitly dealt with Kierkegaardian themes in Ordet, wrote the script.

And no, I’m not suggesting that in the film Medea killed her children because God told her to.

What do you think?

apursan​sar

over 2 years ago

That comparision makes sense, and I think that Kierkegaard’s retelling of Abraham sacrificing his son is spot-on. In Lvt’s version of “Medea” the older son becomes an accomplice of Medea which indeed differs from Euripides’ play, but I’m not yet convinced that he is actually meant to be Isaac. As Kierkegaard mentions, Isaac got scared when his father told him about his intentions and Abraham let him believe that he were nothing but a brute – it being a pleasure for him to kill his own son – in order to not have him comprehend it was in fact God’s will to have him killed, Isaac therefore submits himself to God since he lost the faith in his own father. In that sense I think we can find Isaac both in the older son that goes along and in the younger son that tries to run away.

Michael Convery

over 2 years ago

Perhaps it’s best to say that I think the film can present Medea and her children as a comparison to be thought of along side Kierkegaard’s Abraham and Isaac and Agamemnon and Iphigenia, rather than a version of them. A third Knight, just as potentially horrifying and perplexing as the Knight of faith.

Michael Convery

over 2 years ago

A Knight of Faithful Resignation? Nah that’s not right at all.

Or would Medea not be a knight at all but just a vengeful woman in Kierkegaard’s Aesthetic stage, while Agamemnon is in the Ethical stage, and Abraham in the mysterious Religious stage.

Then again, her deed is absurd like the Knight of Faith’s in that she consciously seeks her revenge through the death of her beloved children.

She’s an odd middle ground of the two

Michael Convery

over 2 years ago

[editing accidental double post]

răpciun​e

over 2 years ago

what about analyzing lech majewski’s glass lips, which is more complex and interesting and explicitly offers an abrahamic sacrifice. the movie even credits angelus silesius in the end.
i do not think medea is in the aesthetic stage. it’s more like etical. her reasons are personal reasons, she is culpable of hybris just like so many ancient heroes. abraham goes beyond personal reasons. for kierkegaard, the possibility of authenticity is strictly linked to this religious stage. the others are modes of forgetting, a premonitionn of later heideggerian das man, although the way heidegger theorizes art and faith is different from kierkegaard’s.

Michael Convery

over 2 years ago

I’ve never seen glass lips, but now it’s on my list. thanks
And my knowledge of heidegger is pathetic

Michael Convery

about 2 years ago

I just watched Breaking the Waves. Could Bess be considered a Knight of Faith?