Darcy and I watched the movie, by Lars Von Trier.

Quite possibly, the film is the best illustration, ever, of what it is like to live with either depression, or its sister, anxiety.


Part One

The film is a look at an upper class family on the eve of the end of the world. No one knows the world is ending in the beginning, although Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, has her suspicions. Justine is one of the most gorgeous brides ever, in a wedding as picture perfect as you can imagine. Well, except for her dysfunctional parents who either let her down or make a scene. Gradually, we understand that Justine can’t enjoy the beauty of the event. She thinks it’s false, even though she doesn’t want to, and she makes a huge mess of it all. Her sister Claire who had planned the event on her beautiful estate, is troubled and can’t understand why Justine can’t just “be happy.” The day after the disastrous affair, Justine goes horseback riding with her sister, and she is unable to get her faithful stallion Abraham over a bridge. Justine looks up and notices a star is missing from the constellations.

Part Two

The missing star has been identified as Melancholia, a planet that is possibly on a collusion course with earth. Claire’s extremely rich husband John is confident that the planet will miss earth, just like it missed Mercury. He reassures Claire, who is very worried, that the planet will provide for a beautiful sight, but that is all. Claire desperately wants to believe him, but you can see the doubt and concern on her face. Justine has returned, catatonic, but seems to improve as the situation grows more dire. With a calm certainty, she faces her doom with dignity, helping Claire and her son who are eventually deserted by John. (Money means nothing in the end?) Claire tries desperately to save her son from their shared fate, and tries to control their fate, but to no avail. She never really accepts what is happening.

I don’t suffer from depression, although I have had my sad moments during my infertility journey. I don’t think life is pointless, like Justine, but I understand her plight. She sees the world as it is: that we will all face death. She has a hard time going through the motions, based on her understanding of the end game. No matter how incredible certain moments are, she just can’t play at life.

Claire, I comprehend completely. Claire, who functions so well during Justine’s wedding, is lost when Melancholia approaches. She has tied her life to the material world, she has a son she wants to survive and she can’t face the end. While Justine relied upon Claire in life, Claire must rely on Justine when facing death.

No one wants to die, of course. But we know none of us get out alive.

Have you seen the movie? Did you think it is about depression and anxiety?


Filed under movies, What Say You?

6 responses to “Melancholia

  1. I haven’t seen it, but after reading your opening, I now have to do so, so I can finish the post.

  2. OK. I got only as far as the missing star and then realized I don’t want the spoilers. I’ve now requested the movie from my library so I’ll have to get back to you on that.

    Didn’t Lars von Trier also do the movie Bjork was in? That was haunting.

  3. I watched this one while I was in California waiting for my 2nd surgery. I was actually struck by how Justine, who throughout the movie had perplexed everyone with her depression and “crazy” suddenly became the stable one as the end of the world approached. To me, it almost painted the picture of acceptance vs a desperate need for control, rather than depression vs pretending to always be happy. I absolutely saw pieces of myself in Claire, but almost wished that I was more Justine. If that even makes any sense at all?

  4. When the credits rolled, I burst into tears. I mean – uncontrollable, inconsolable sobbing. For an hour. It was so bad, I had to call my mom to get her to calm me down b/c it had launched into a full-blown panic attack. I knew she had recently seen it with my dad and she confessed too, that both she and my bad were visibly disturbed by the film.

    And yet – Melancholia is easily in one of my top 5 favorite films, simply for its sheer artistry. Von Trier’s personality & antics aside, it’s just a gorgeous film. It’s like masturbatory decadence. There are some really great articles I’ll have to dig up about his inspiration for creating this film, but essentially, he wrote it when undergoing therapy for SEVERE depression.

    Dunst’s monologue about earth being the only source of life in the Universe – I don’t know how a) she didn’t get an Oscar nod for her performance and b) if I’ve ever seen writing so raw in a film before. Revolutionary Road comes to mind, but it’s a different take on depression.

    I very much want to rewatch it, but knowing my fragile hormonal state right now, not sure I could take it. If it weren’t so long, and at times a bit elitist & lofty, I would say watching Dunst’s performance should be required viewing for anyone who lives or works or cares for someone living with severe depression. “It tastes like ashes…!” – ugh, that scene. Your heart just breaks for her.

  5. Nice write-up. Personally, I like to see this film in a more symbolic way. We are all ‘Claire’ most of the time: rational beings who do not want to die, but there are also ‘Justine’ in us sometimes – in that we become apathetic, the contrast and interrelation between the two are fascinating. If you like check out my in-depth analysis of this film in my blog under ‘Film Reviews’ sections – it is the first ever film I reviewed.

  6. You’re on a roll with the recommendations this week.

    Very, very impressive film. Depression was captured so perfectly, so accurately. I was Justine, I am, I always will be. It doesn’t go away. Sometimes I can’t pretend, sometimes it does taste like ashes.

    And I married Claire.

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