I recently hosted a podcast where we covered Melancholia (Episode 08 of ‘What I’ve Learned From Film’, which you can find here) and the guests and I had a discussion as to whether the planet itself, Melancholia, was indeed real or not.
My take on it was that the planet was a manifestation of the emotions shown by the two main sisters: that of depression and anxiety. Justine also talks a bit about the inherent evil nature of humans and it had me thinking that the planet may be a combination of the negativity/evilness/emotions felt by people all over the world. It seemed that maybe a point was being made that these emotions we feel (depression, anxiety, etc.) bring bad things into the world and that they will eventually kill us all. That we bring about our own downfall and perhaps, even deserve it.
And on top of that, the printout of Melancholia’s orbit was definitely out of the ordinary, which makes me believe further that the planet isn’t a planet in the literal sense.
So for those who have seen the film, what is your interpretation of it? Do you think it was a literal, physical planet? Something else perhaps?
I don’t mean to be cute here, but: both? Real and symbolic.
The film itself is manifestation of certain feelings. There are no parts of it that is real or unreal, there are no fundamental layer of reality. It’s all a metaphor so it’s not relevant to talk about the planet being real or not, it’s not a “positivist” or realist film, existence of people and things and “truth” indeed doesn’t matter, because it’s expressionist and psychological anyway. That’s the premise, it’s not a Nolan film.
Yes exactly like Solaris. Your question is like asking: “did Jesus REALLY walk on water in the bible” or “was the monolith in 2001 real?”. Doesn’t matter!
Okay, let me word the question in a better fashion:
What is your interpretation of what the planet Melancholia represents in this film?
It doesn’t really matter if is or isn’t real. How does the answer to that question affect how you watch the film?
The film is an imaginative construction like all creative works. Trier presents the planet as real and we see the consequences of its reality. He gives no indication that these events are the figments of Justine and/or Claire’s imagination.
These sorts of discussions always seem to ignore the fact that the contents of the film do not exist outside of said film. The people and events depicted in the film are made up. They have no life outside of the film. The only way this sort of discussion ever has meaning is in a truly subjective film, like Black Swan or Martha Marcy May Marlene. In those films, we are shown nothing that is not directly experienced by one single character (Nina, Martha) and those events are traumatizing and out-of-the-ordinary. Epistemological and ontological questions come into play as a result. But films like that are exceptions that prove the rule. Even in those films, it doesn’t matter whether or not what the character experiences is what actually happened in objective reality. Since we are only privy to the point of view of one character in each of those films, what matters is that the events we witness are the events that the protagonist subjectively experienced.
In a film like Melancholia, even THAT level of subjective reality doesn’t come into play because the film is told from multiple points of view.
What a strange question.
It’s definitely real, I saw it yesterday when I looked out of the window.
Wow, I really need to watch the wording of my questions here. Once again…
Um, I think it was real in the film, yeah. I don’t think the two imagined the whole thing. That wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense with the rest of the film.
I also didn’t get the impression that it was the negative feelings that caused the downfall. If anything, the prospect of annihilation was a release from the maliciousness, arrogance, and superficiality that surrounded them. Von Trier didn’t judge the depression, he thought depression was a reasonable response to the ‘normal’ life her family tried to pressure her into.
And, I disagree that those kinds of questions aren’t relevant for the interpretation of a film. There are cases where it’s not important to know whether or not something was true, but that doesn’t make it any less important a consideration as to whether or not it was true. In other words, in films like Total Recall or Black Swan the question of ‘What is the film’s reality’ is important, but we are asked to analyze the question without being offered a conclusion.
Jirin’s got it right. The cosmological here serves as a means to describe a condition, and if Von Trier places his judgment on anyone, it’s Sutherland. Metaphysical faith in reason simply cannot abide the possibility of its own senseless annihilation.
toddj Jirin’s got it right.
Jirin’s metaphysical faith in reason: That wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense with the rest of the film.
Are we sure it isn’t von Trier giving a nod to Tarkovsky’s Solaris?
@ apursansarNASA Discovers Real-Life Melancholia; Not Yet On a Collision Course With Earth
Was the planet in Solaris not real, lolz? I frankly don’t see any relation between the two, but maybe that’s me?
Was the planet in Solaris not real, lolz?
Ask Apu about that – evidently, Marc is very celestially knowledgeable.
OP: planet was a manifestation of the emotions shown by the two main sisters: that of depression and anxiety
In the film, is there a relationship between the sister’s emotional state and the movements of the planet?
Are feelings ‘real’?
For my own volition, I’ll complete the thought….
Opinion: perception is reality.
Scientific fact: every perception results in a feeling.
Logic: perception = feeling = reality
Conclusion: feelings are real
Q: was Solaris real?
You tell me….
Something being a figment of the characters’ imaginations is different than something being a manifest product of the characters’ imaginations.
I think in an interview with Von Trier he talks about how his focus on the film was Justine’s (that’s Dunst’s character, right?) depression and how depressed people can remain calm in ridiculous situations. So I think the planet in Melancholia was supposed to be real in the story-world, although I think it can definitely, and does, stand in for what you’re talking about, Ryan.
Going into the movie, I thought that Justine was going to be causing the planet somehow, and I wish that’s how it had been. Von Trier could have explored these themes a lot more.
If Justine had been causing the apocalypse I wouldn’t have liked it as much. I like it better the way it was, how it was just an improbable but always possible event that we can’t do anything about, and Justine was frightened at first, but when the reality set in, realized she didn’t mind that much.
One would think that a manifestation would be directly referenced in the film.
Do you think the planet was real?
There’s nothing stopping you from reading what you’d like into the film, but I don’t see any actual evidence that would lead us to believe that the events that take place in Melancholia, the peril of planet Earth, are not real. We have the limited perspectives of two women and that’s about it… you can draw quite a large number of conclusions, whatever suits you…
What is your interpretation of what the planet Melancholia represents in this film?
What more could the planet possibly represent than exactly what it is? Everything you can say about the planet answers your question.
“Melancholia was hiding behind the sun, then it came out and ended everything as we know it.”
What more could it “represent” than that?
The fact that everybody could see and interact with each others’ imaginations?
I got the definite impression that there was an alien intelligence trying to communicate with humans by reflecting their mental states. That’s the point of the ‘encephalogram’, to given the alien intelligence the information it was looking for in a format it could understand.
I guess my disappointment with the film is because I wanted the planet to mean a lot more than it actually did. I’ll probably revisit the movie when it comes out on home video, and maybe I’ll change my mind.
I’d be interested to hear you elaborate on that. Why did you want the planet to ‘mean more’ and do you know what you would’ve liked to have seen? I’m just asking.
Hmmm – well I think I just went into it with the wrong expectations. I thought that there was gonna be more of an overt conflict between Justine and her sister (can’t remember her name), and that that conflict was going to somehow be equated with the Earth’s impending destruction. I didn’t know how they were going to relate, or how I would have wanted them to relate, and, honestly, I would have been just as happy if they weren’t related, but that there was more of a direct conflict. Instead, what I got was a film that was mostly about depression and how the depressed Justine and her family deal with a catastrophic event. Of course, their ways of dealing with it are definitely interesting, but it just wasn’t what I expected or wanted.
Now that I know what happens, I do want to revisit it, because I feel like there’s a lot more there that I didn’t get because I was looking for something else. There was a lot of mysterious, surreal stuff going on at the wedding that doesn’t seem discussed very much, as well as a few hilarious dark comedy moments.
Also, I found the film’s beauty to be a little underwhelming while watching it, but the final image has really stuck with me, so there’s that.
I love Trier and everything about this film technically seems to be exactly what I’d love to see. But I gave it 3/5 and its been lightly itching me lately. There’s some powerful stuff in the film, but then you have scenes like Justine talking to her boss, Stellan Skarsgaard – and I mean we’ve seen Stellan act exactly like that before (in Trier’s very own films), and Trier is shooting and cutting just like he’s done 1000 times before – honestly, I just got a little bored. I was amazed to have been bored. Also, let’s be honest, Trier does have knack for casting but he doesn’t exactly bring us anything new – he gets exceptional performances but Kiefer, John Hurt, Rampling, Udo again, Stellan again… diletante film viewers could’ve made the same calls. I like this film and want to give it more credit… if only I could. The highly artistic opening shots are beautiful but feel superfluous, redundant – imagine Antichrist opening instead of with prologue info necessary to the story, but with a highly artistic kind of montage of “the story we’re about to experience.” Just feels slightly indulgent. On the other hand, Trier does it better than almost anybody.
I agree with the overindulgence of the opening prologue – it’s kind of a less-necessary rehash of the beginning of Antichrist. Actually, I agree with everything else you said, except I don’t really love Trier. I’ve felt pretty much the same way about all his other films that I’ve seen – especially Antichrist. On paper, I love that film, but for some reason, in real life I just… don’t.
It’s entirely possible that these evolving feelings of mine on Trier will retrospectively stretch backward and taint my memories of the provocative and indulgent ass. Doubt anybody’s noticed but I never call him “Von Trier” ever since I heard he simply added the ‘Von’ to his name because he liked the effect – equally as gimmicky as Shyamalan’s sophomoric moniker. Trier is an exceptional opportunist. But I think he shares a certain quality with Haneke; namely that no matter how you feel about what they choose to make films about, they have “power which cannot be denied.”
Lol about the “von” being made up! I think that Joseph Von Sternberg did the same thing!
Real in what sense? It was obviously real to those in the film. It was an intriguing premise, but I think it would have been more interesting if the second half of the film was actually a prequel to the first half, thereby making Justine’s nihilism expressed at the wedding all the more contrived, similar to many of the doomsday advocates we read about in the papers, but it seems dear Lars has a rather gloomy view of our existence in the cosmos, sucking us into his nihilistic orbit and making Justine into the heroine of this film.
As for Kepler 22b, I don’t think we have anything to fear. it is another galaxy far far away.