Melancholia

by suu4leaf

I reread my previous entry and realised that it was just like any of my ‘melancholic attacks’ in the past few years. I thought they had something to do with my constant need for expression in words, and that when they ceased my writing also ceased. I thought I am through with the stage of youthful melancholia and have reached stale adulthood. But I was wrong. I can still write like a melancholic youth if I allow myself to, only that something has been keeping me from it. Some larger force than melancholia has consumed me and my ability to write, if that is at all possible.

As if drawn by some cosmic force, I went to watch Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. The heroine Justin suffers from depression, which is melancholy in contemporary terms. But melancholia is not only a mood disorder. Throughout history (in the West) Melancholia has been considered the most profound of all temperaments. Kings and Princes, Philosophers, Lovers, all the Young Werthers, are prone to melancholia. The film reestablishes all the associations that are historically concerned with Melancholia, such as the malevolent star of Melancholia being the source of all chaos, while traditionally Saturn is the planet attributed to Melancholia. Of the earth element, the influence of Saturn compels people to stoop and brood over the earth, where we come from and where we will return to as dust. Melancholia is the contemplation of Death. And in the film, the planet Melancholia collides with Earth, bringing about the Death of mankind, and more significantly, all the fear, chaos and meditations about Death. In the middle of her wedding, in a desperate fit, Justin replaces the books in the library with those with the images of Pieter Bruegel’s The Hunter in the Snow, Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, and Millais’s Ophelia with which Justin identifies herself, all images associated with melancholia and death.

And so it is that the powerful and almost unbearable film brings me back to all my old ponderings over Melancholia, over Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I, over Hamlet and Ophelia, over Freud on King Lear, over Lacan on The Garden of Earthly Delights, over Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, all my sad youthful days at school. 

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