The Optimism of Melancholia
Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic. He is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His books include Living in the End Times, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, In Defense of Lost Causes, four volumes of the Essential Žižek, and Event: A Philosophical Journey Through a Concept.\r\n
Žižek received his Ph.D. in Philosophy in Ljubljana studying Psychoanalysis. He has been called the "Elvis of philosophy" and an "academic rock star." His work calls for a return to the Cartesian subject and the German Ideology, in particular the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. Slavoj Žižek's work draws on the works of Jacques Lacan, moving his theory towards modern political and philosophical issues, finding the potential for liberatory politics within his work. But in all his turns to these thinkers and strands of thought, he hopes to call forth new potentials in thinking and self-reflexivity. He also calls for a return to the spirit of the revolutionary potential of Lenin and Karl Marx.\r\n
Slavoj Zizek: Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, I think, it’s a basically, I’m not kidding, optimistic film, even as we know at the end the planet Melancholia hits the earth, we all die. But I find something beautifully poetical in the attitude of the main person, Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, no, this inner peace, how she accepts this.
I claim that we should not read this as kind of a pessimism. “Oh, we all die. Who cares?” No, if you really want to do something good for society, if you want to avoid all totalitarian threats and so on, you basically should go . . . we should all go to this, let me call it--although I’m a total materialist--fundamentally spiritual experience of accepting that at some day everything will finish, that at any point the end may be near. I think that, quite on the contrary of what may appear, this can be a deep experience which pushes you to strengthen ethical activity.
The result of this experience is not, “Oh, the end may be near, so let’s kill, let’s just enjoy,” and so on. No, it’s the opposite. Again, paradoxically, I claim it’s not a superficially but profoundly optimistic film.
The philosopher on why Melancholia is actually an optimistic movie.
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