Portrayal of Sexuality in Melancholia and 28 Days Later

**Trigger Warning** This blog post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

In the past two movies our class has watched, I have noticed a common theme shared between them: the importance (if any) of desire/sex. Depending on the movie, it is portrayed differently, but I have seen its presence in both Melancholia and 28 Days Later.

For example, we discussed how Melancholia’s protagonist Justine has an obvious affinity for expressing her sexuality in how she entices then denies consummation with her husband in exchange for an affair with a stranger and in her late-night nude lounge on the riverbed in the moonlight. Additionally, 28 Days Later features numerous intense sexual violence scenes with the soldiers onto Selena and Hannah. But what is the importance of this wanton exhibition?

My guess is that both directors of Melancholia and 28 Days Later want to make a comment on sex. Discussing sex while putting it in the frame of the apocalypse suggests the kind of sex they want to talk about and portray is more carnal and animalistic. After all, Justine and Major West’s soldiers both committed forced sexual assault. Could the comment be, when faced with imminent doom, humanity will resort back to acting on an innate savagery?

Or, could both directors want to discuss female sexuality in particular? While von Trier paints female sexuality as seemingly empowering and emboldening, Boyle marks the subject with horrifying violence and force that seems to express the opposite. I have also read from reviews of Boyle’s film how the imagery of gory blood and the implication of the phrase “28 Days” likens it to the image of the female menstrual cycle, which further deepens the movie’s relation to female sexuality.

I have no concrete answers for my guesses at these directors’ aims. However, it is interesting to think about how sensitive topics like sex(uality) play out in the event of humanity’s end. For example, since female sexuality is such a taboo topic in society, it would make sense if the directors of these films wanted the opportunity to discuss it, as their movies gives them the chance to do so freely.

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