Call me a lightweight, but my favorite Alan Rickman role will always be Snape. Snape is the most complex character in the Harry Potter series, and Alan Rickman did a spectacular job with him. Who can forget him holding his arms up to protect Harry and Hermione from Lupin as werewolf, or the scene of him crying over Lily’s dead body? But Snape wasn’t rising to heroics, he was just bitter and angry, and Rickman did that brilliantly, too. So when I heard his voice as Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide,” it kind of threw me through a loop. Rickman can snarl in anger, but he can also moan and quiver under depression and insecurity.
When all the Vogons were felled by a dose of Marvin’s perspective, I had an insight. Anger and depression are often responses to the same stimulus; namely, you’re not getting what you want. Anger riles you up to fight for it, and depression, the dysfunctional twin of sadness, takes away your will to fight. As one of the felled Vogons said, “Sometimes you’ve got to ask yourself, what’s the point?”
Sometimes it’s right to put up a fight. Sometimes it’s right to surrender. Snape didn’t get Lily, and fighting James couldn’t win her, so his anger was misplaced and self-destructive. He should have surrendered instead. He would have felt sad for a while, perhaps a long while, but the functional approach of sadness means mourning the loss, saying goodbye to that dashed hope, accepting it and moving on. Depression is refusal to say goodbye.
From this distance, it’s easy for me to say goodbye to Alan Rickman. I didn’t know him personally, though like everyone else, I’ll miss out on whatever brilliant work he might have done had he lived longer. His fellow actors are saying how nice a person he was, and that does come across in interviews. So I’m grateful to him for his work, and particularly, the insight he led me to with the power of his voice.