While suffering from depression can be an ultimately devastating thing, there are ways in which to channel negative emotions and feelings into something creative. That is what film director Lars Von Trier did while he was suffering from depression and the end result is jarring, unsettling and unforgettable. The ‘Trilogy of Depression’, as it is known, consists of Antichrist, Melancholia and Nymphomaniac Pt. 1. It is clear to see that these films have been made by someone going through a difficult and emotional time and Lars Von Trier has been very open about this part of his life. The characters in each film either suffer from depression or grief and are said to mirror the feelings Von Trier himself had while making the movies, one most common outcome being that those who suffer from depression stay very calm in stressful situations.
Amongst our collection is the beautiful and unsettling apocalyptic drama Melancholia which is split into two parts; Justine and Claire. Justine and Claire are sisters and the first part is focussed around Justine’s wedding day. She suffers from depression and often acts in a very self-destructive way and she doesn’t appear to take the union very seriously, often becoming tired and loathsome of the whole thing while simultaneously joyfully celebrating with her family, friends and new husband. At the beginning of the first part Justine notices a flickering red star in the sky which John, Claire’s husband identifies as Antares. After her new husband abandons her on her wedding night due to her unlawful behaviour with a co-worker, Justine and Claire go horse riding in the morning where Justine notices that the star has vanished.
Claire’s story takes place exactly after Justine’s finished and Justine is falling into a catatonic state of depression. She stays with Claire, John and their son in their family mansion where the wedding reception was held. John explains to Justine that the disappearance of Antares is because the gigantic rogue planet Melancholia is blocking it from their view. He later learns that Melancholia is going to closely pass by earth and as an amateur astrologist, he is very excited by this prospect. Claire however is terrified that earth will be destroyed by Melancholia and searches the internet for more information. She finds an article depicting the ‘Dance of Death’ that Melancholia will inevitably do with the earth, it will circle the earth once and ultimately collides with it upon its retreat. The night of the fly by comes and they watch as Melancholia comes incredibly close and then gets smaller as the night moves on. Relieved that John was right, Claire returns to her normal, relaxed self. Justine tells her that she feels that she has an insight and a connection to the planet, she knows that Melancholia will come back to destroy the earth. A few hours later, Melancholia is much closer again and the destruction of the earth is merely hours away. She discovers her husband, John, dead in the horse stables from a suicide and she and Justine are left alone with the impending catastrophic collision.
The opening sequence of the film tells its entire story through a series of extreme slow motion shots. For example one of Justine in her wedding dress trying to run away while thick vines are entangled around her legs, holding her back and another of the inevitable collision of Melancholia with Earth. Melancholia tells an interesting story which is played out through two completely different women, connected as sisters but otherwise the antithesis of each other. When dealing with the end of the world, Justine is very calm and accepting of her fate, almost enjoying the prospect of peace whereas Claire is frantically trying to find a way to escape and uncontrollably crying until the very end. This extreme metaphor for depression is a clear cry from Von Trier himself, the feeling of being dragged down, the catatonia of depression, the notion of impending doom and is exceptionally demonstrated through Justine.
It’s an odd film in places and will not please everyone, but the beautiful depth of character and emotion is undeniably brilliant. An unsettling watch from start to finish giving you a realistic glance into a depiction of the end of the world free from media hype and global panic. Focussed, painful and honest, Melancholia is a stand out film and worthy of a watch from any film fanatic.
The film Melancholia can be found in the DVD Zone at 791.43 M
Coping with Depression by Lisa Firth is in the BOOK ZONE shelved at 616.8527
The film’s website www.melancholiathemovie.com is full of great stills from the movie and an interview with Lars Von Trier himself.