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Melancholy About “Melancholia”


We just watched Melancholia, the highly-existential 2011 movie offering by Lars von Trier, who is  seriously-talented as a writer and director but might be sadly-flawed as a person.

The movie is a study of two sisters – one who is sensible and responsible and the other who is depressive and socially dysfunctional.  During the first half of the movie, the sensible sister tries to help her “weaker” sister get married and celebrate the occasion appropriately but failing miserably.  Then, the roles reverse when it becomes apparent that another planet, aptly named Melancholia, will soon collide with earth, killing everybody.  At that point, the depressive sister finds meaning and happiness, while helping her formerly sensible sister adjust to their rapidly approaching death.

While the collision of planets seems hardly plausible in any movie, it does lend a remorseless existential inevitability that becomes the fulcrum of the sisters’ relationship.  It is characteristic of von Trier to develop the protagonists of his movies in a soup of surrealism.  Still, it is interesting to see different people react to the same fate.

A normal, well-adjusted person might react to the pending cataclysm by saying “Oh, no, I’m don’t want to die” . . . as panic begins.

A person with clinical depression might say “of course, what else can happen to me?”

A nihilist might say “finally” with great relief.

An existentialist would say “Crushed by another planet hitting earth – that’s absurd – almost as absurd as all these people running around in a panic – maybe we should just enjoy one last glass of good chardonnay?”

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