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The Optimism of Melancholia

In this third video from our interview with Slavoj Žižek, the philosopher and author of Big Think’s most recent Book of the Month answers the question, “Which summer film are you anticipating most?” Watch the interview:

Despite the fact that it depicts the last 24 hours on Earth and is directed by Lars von Trier, Melancholia is not as pessimistic as you’d think, he says. “I find something beautifully poetical in the attitude of the main person, Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, this inner peace, how she accepts this.” 

You could even read it as a kind of optimism, he argues. “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 is not fatalistic hedonism, but a kind of profound engagement with the meaning and significance of life.


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