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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7 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:

    Don’t lecture me about depression (see the Fitzgerald piece I linked to in the first paragraph, it explains it all). 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. 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.

    If they actually listened to those who suffer, as opposed to lecture.

    I don’t think any art is “dangerous”, at least not in the way you seem to be describing it.

    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 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. I couldn’t disagree more strongly if I tried.

    Melancholia would have been ruined if it had taken the path you seem to want it to take.

    No more lectures. Let’s talk about art.

    Next comment? Better comment, hopefully.

  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:

    Stop lecturing. If you cannot tell that you are taking a lecturing tone, I am here to tell you you are.

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

    Maybe, maybe not. Either way: it’s not up to you to decide that for someone.

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

    No shit.

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

    Why is it so difficult for men to enter a story from a woman’s point of view and so EASY for women to enter a story from a man’s? This is YOUR limitation, not the film’s.

    I have no interest in discussing the film in the way you seem to want to discuss it, so I’m done with this part of the conversation.

  5. 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!

  6. 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”. EXTREMELY obnoxious. 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 is extremely insulting of you to barge in and assume I don’t know what I’m talking about. Men: Stop doing that. Do not lecture people you don’t know, unless you are a Professor at a University and those you are lecturing are your students. If you take it on with other people, whom you do not know and ASSUME you do, it is extremely annoying. And if you get a prickly response – like the one you’re getting now – you deserve it. You have brought it on yourself.

    And to your comment about Dunst’s body: Fuck you.

  7. charmaine says:


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