“Melancholia” is about depression, not the Apocalypse

As we discussed in class, it may be a stretch to say that Melancholia is a film about the end of the world. Yes, the Earth does end because a planet named Melancholia crashes into it, but it is worth arguing that the film is just one giant metaphor for depression and how it affects us as people when we or someone we know is going through it.

First off, the planet is literally a giant ball of sadness. It is named Melancholia, so I think that should be evidence enough for my argument for the metaphor, but I digress. Secondly, Lars Von Trier stated that the film was inspired by his own depressive episode which is something I think we should not ignore when looking at the way he chooses to depict Justine and her family.

Justine is very obviously portrayed as depressed, in my opinion. The way she moves on her own time, the one-on-one talks she wants to have with various members of her family and the fact that she quits her job and says goodbye to her newlywed husband on the day of her wedding all mimic the actions of someone going through a mentally exhausting time. The fact that she has a “sixth sense” and knows before anyone else about the end of the world is a good character trait addition by von Trier because it almost gives her a license to be depressed. I mean, if I knew the end of the world was coming and that no one would survive, I would be depressed too. I also think that by doing this, he is mirroring the way many depressives feel. They are hopeless, helpless and often times, they find an excuse for feeling the way that they feel to make themselves less afraid of their situation.

In terms of the mise-en-scene if you will, I think the use of the handheld camera was nice in the way that it made us feel the instability that Justine felt. I think the close-ups used were strategic because they emphasized the things that were important to Justine individually, such as holding her nephews hand. The use of the repetitive soundtrack made me actually depressed for two hours because it felt like I was stuck in this god awful merry-go-round of sadness and unfamiliarity. Altogether, I actually felt like “let’s get this over with, please” which I believe was his intention when making this film.

When Justine asks “is this world evil” I wanted to answer yes, but only because I felt as if I had just suffered through two hours of my life. I think that life, if looked upon in a negative lens, seems very evil, however, there at little joys in life to appreciate. If the world is evil, how do we cope? Not only that, but how do we justify being able to live a happy and optimistic life if we know it is all going to end in death? If there is a time that we go through depressive episodes, is life and our family enough to pull us out of it before our own personal planet crashes into us?

 

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