Melancholy Manifest

The only thing you need to read about Lars von Trier’s Melancholia is Kim Morgan’s incredible essay. I first saw this film at the NYFF in 2011, and have seen it 5 or 6 times since. It won’t let me go, and some of its images have actually been incorporated into my own psyche. I have felt the grey yarn clinging to my legs, holding me back. I have felt that there was something “out there” working ON me, affecting me, like a hidden planet. And the beauty of succumbing to it, like lying naked at night underneath the moon. Madness, yes, but those who know the pull will understand that image intuitively. Melancholy manifest. That is not what it looks like, perhaps, to the naked eye, but that is what it feels like. (I suppose this post is related.) My own review here, but Kim sums it all up so powerfully, I wouldn’t want you to miss her piece. I hadn’t linked to it when it first came out because it was December, and life was crazy at that time. Please check out her insightful thought-provoking words.

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9 Responses to Melancholy Manifest

  1. noel shine says:

    I just happened to see the end of this film on tv the other night and was similarly impressed. Melancholia or depression in its many manifestations, as a theme is invariably second nature to most people of a creative bent. It has formed the basis of the creative impulse and has been celebrated in art since God was a child. So it follows that it doesn’t take a tremendous leap of the imagination on the part of the director or Kirsten Dunst to bring their talents to bear in the manner in which they do in a treatise of this nature. Regardless of the implied qualities of integrity and sensitivity that they or their critics ascribe to such art, they inadvertently contribute to the narrative which glorifies depression as “sublime”and the afflicted as “martyrs”. Such polemic is dangerous given the prevalence of mental illness-related deaths at the present time.

  2. sheila says:

    I would prefer not to be lectured about depression (see the Fitzgerald piece I linked to in the first paragraph, it explains it all). Your tone is a huge trigger for me, and I am dead serious. So I am warning you off that path.

    If Lars von Trier had wanted to do a treatise teaching everyone about the horrors of depression, he would have done so – and he would have made a boring movie (which wouldn’t be possible at any rate because his Lars von Trier). He is up to something else here, something challenging and subjective: it is told from the INSIDE . And when you’re on the inside, yes, it feels like submitting yourself to the encroachment of the “melancholy” (be it Planet or depression) – and well, yes, that is not understandable to some. Perhaps they would understand better if they watched von Trier’s film.

    I don’t think any art is “dangerous”, at least not in the way you seem to be describing it. But again: the great Kim says it better than I can.

    Life is big, mysterious, and yes, full of danger but also beauty (the dangerous IS beautiful) – and there is always the possibility that things will not be understood, that things will not be comprehended, that it will be a MESS. I cherish it for that reason.

    I disagree entirely with what seems to be your premise, that art needs to be instructive, that it needs to be clear like a thesis paper, and that it needs to improve/enlighten. Melancholia is a movie I cherish and for me it would have been ruined if it had taken the path you seem to want it to take. I would have turned away.

    No more lectures. Let’s talk about art.


  3. noel shine says:

    I “enjoy” the Nordic perspective on the dark side of life through art be it Breaking The Waves, Melancholia, Ingmar Bergman, Borgen (Danish tv drama), ABBA ( for Thors sake!) or Lykke Li. I am more than well aware that he was dealing with the theme of the female experience of “madness” and its apparent normalcy. Neither gender has the monopoly on depression. Lars Von Trier attempts to grapple with the subject matter are more than laudable.Its just I think one should guard one’s self from the misnomer that melancholy is either valiant or noble. It is a viable threat to existence unless well managed.Treating it as taboo or obfuscating facts is unhelpful.

  4. sheila says:

    // I think one should guard one’s self from the misnomer that melancholy is either valiant or noble. //

    Sure. Good advice.

    // Neither gender has the monopoly on depression. //

    No shit.

    But Melancholia is the story of women. Men are peripheral. They usually are in von Trier. You’re talking about what the movie ISN’T as opposed to what it IS.

    You are free to do that, of course, I just have no interest in it.

    • sheila says:

      And again: stop lecturing. If you cannot tell that you are taking a lecturing tone, I am here to tell you you are.

      It’s obnoxious.

  5. sheila says:

    Here are things I would love to discuss:

    — the acting – love Keifer Sutherland in this.
    — the portrayal of depression and the significance of the Planet
    — Lars von Trier’s conception – the music, the setting, the cinematography
    — the different scenes: I love the one when the flaming balloons are set off, but there are so many moments I love. Any favorites? Any arresting images that stayed with you?
    — apocalyptic films – I love them, and I saw a couple of them last year (the NYFF has a couple of them alone) – some work for me, some don’t. Many apocalyptic films descend into the silly. This one didn’t. But it’s an interesting discussion.
    — I think it is far and away Kirsten Dunst’s best work although I have always been a fan, and love her in Marie Antoinette, as well as Bring It On. But here? I am in awe, and, strangely enough, really proud of her – she dug deep.
    — The brilliant Charlotte Rampling. An actress who takes my breath away.
    — the opening.
    — I love the fact that it is just never explained that Dunst is the only one in the family who does not have a British accent. I find that funny, and I love that Lars von Trier does not give a shit about that detail.

    You see, there are many other things to discuss (far more interesting).

  6. noel shine says:

    Sheila,I had not read the Fitzgerald piece you alluded to unto now. I appreciate your searing honesty and can now appreciate why you find my contributions objectionable.We have more in common, besides Irishness and Elvis in common. I have not set out to be disparaging, patronising or insensitive, but I am sure you can appreciate that there are limits to what I can convey within this framework.Some things may get lost in translation and I am more than aware that I can “sound” more clever in print than the pretentious dumbf%k I actually am.Yours is the only blog I engage with because of the breadth of cultural topics discussed. For the record, the best thing about the movie was Kirsten Dunst tits!

  7. sheila says:

    Noel – I appreciate that you went to read the Fitzgerald piece to learn more. Your comments were coming off as what we annoyed ladies call “mansplaining”, if you’ll forgive me. I am well aware of what depression is, how it is portrayed, the dangers of it, the dangers of romanticizing it, blah blah blah, etc., and I know it from the inside. It’s important to take a step back sometimes – to think before speaking. And to certainly think before lecturing. The Internet, as you say, is not always conducive to that kind of thing, but I do expect a little bit of that here. It makes for better conversation – for people who visit here and for me. Thank you.

    And to your comment about Dunst’s body: Ew.

    Please, if that’s your only contribution, then best leave it unsaid.

    Irishness and Elvis are two very good things to have in common. I appreciate very much your comments on the Elvis stuff, for what it’s worth.

  8. noel shine says: Check it out, apparently its based on Tristan and Isolde Good night its 2 am here, you’re a bad influence Sheila O’Malley! joke

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