Film, 2011

If you are someone who experiences chronic anxiety or depression, I do not recommend deciding on a whim to catch a late night screening of Melancholia solo. It’s kind of like an alcoholic leisurely deciding to take in a screening of Barfly. During my walk back to the car after the film I felt like a tube of toothpaste that was being squeezed empty, and I had to convulse slightly to try and get the feeling out. The first half of the film shows us Justine, whose viscous anxiety leads her to sabotage her own wedding. (Or perhaps, rather, to lead her into a wedding that had no chance for success in the first place). Then, the second half of the film flips the script, focusing on her sister Claire, who gets locked in a crippling depression upon finding out the world will end within the next few days. After their fates are sealed, Justine seems more confident and comfortable than in the entire rest of the film. The rest of the world now shares her intense sense of dread, and her extensive experience in this state of mind allows her to become a chaperone to those around her. The film, although played straight, might ultimately be mocking its subject. (This is von Trier we’re dealing with here.) Aside from the absurd bluntness of its title, the very plot of the movie highlights the illogical nature of Justine’s depression- an event of science-fiction would have to occur to justify it. I don’t share that view, however, and when Justine’s insecurities were eventually validated I shared in her relief.

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