#017: End-of-the-World Blues in Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” (feat. Niels Nothdurft) | A Leap of Doubt

This week’s episode is a review/analysis of Melancholia, a 2011 film written and directed by the controversial Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier. My guest for this discussion is my Danish friend and fellow Von Trier enthusiast Niels Böge Nothdurft.

We discuss Melancholia as an apocalyptic end-of-the-world movie in both a physical and a psychological sense. The movie follows the lives of two sisters, Justine and Claire, living in the final days and hours of planet Earth as it faces imminent collision with a giant rogue planet, dubbed “Melancholia,” that has emerged from behind the sun. Melancholia is also the name given in the psychological literature of a form of severe and debilitating depression, a condition suffered by the character of Justine (played by Kirsten Dunst), who unlike her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) experiences a sense of newfound liberation and peace from her depression as the end of the world approaches. Claire, on the other hand, is suddenly and for the first time in her luxurious and controlled life confronted by the extreme discomfort of existential angst. We discuss the movie’s use of symbolism, both medieval and modern, and as an allegory for depression, ennui, and existential angst. We also ask the question the movie invites all viewers to ask: How would we react to the knowledge that all life on earth, along with the planet itself, was going to end abruptly? Do we see ourselves in the reactions of the characters, and if so, why?



Niels Nothdurft’s blog on the Trolling with Logic website:

Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” official website:

“Melancholia” on IMDb:

Tim Matts and Aidan Tynan, “The Melancholy of Extinction: Lars von Trier’s ‘Melancholia’ as an Environmental Film,” M/C Journal 15, no. 2 (2012),

Sigmund Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917):


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The opening clip is an excerpt from the audiobook “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens, courtesy of Hachette Audio. Text Copyright 2007 by Christopher Hitchens. Audio production copyright 2007, Hachette Audio. Used with permission.

The opening and ending music is “Jade” by Esther Nicholson and is used under license.  The editing was done by Rich Lyons of the “Living After Faith” podcast.