Marco Grosoli

Melancholia and mourning: Lav Diaz and reality shows as (not so) different attempts to exorcize today’s anxiety

“Reality shows” have often been considered as a way to exorcize the utter (social, economical, political) precariousness of our times, provoking increasing uncertainty and anxiety. They emphasize both the continuity of time and the presence of a clearly discernable fictional scheme; through this mimetic interplay, realities reassure the spectator that inside a temporality very much like the viewer’s own, still lies the good old “fiction” (i.e.: a social bond, a complex of interpersonal rules of some kind). Of course this reassurance goes along with an implicit confirmation of one’s trust towards a society whose quintessential expression is the present worldwide media system.

However, there are also attempts to exorcize today’s anxiety which are less inclined to these mainstream tendencies. Among them, Melancholia: a 8-hour film by Filipino director Lav Diaz (awarded in Venice Film Festival 2008). In it, three people engage in a weird “therapy” to cure the indelible pain for the loss of their beloved Renato, a stern opponent of Filipino government some years before: they all go in an island where nobody knows them, and start a new life with different identity, even pretending to meet each other for the first time. Alas, this therapy fails, and despair comes along.

Although never speaking directly about reality shows, Melancholia is evidently recalling one: the three characters actually engage in some sort of a reality show, and we witness their vicissitudes almost in real time (hence its length). Nevertheless, Melancholia is not a reality show, but rather the deconstruction of the reality-show-aesthetics. A claim that an alternative to that aesthetics is still possible, that there can be a form of exorcizing Time’s cruel destructiveness without being deceived into thinking that one can get rid of pain for good, or that the media can do the work of mourning for us. My paper would closely analyze that film, placing it in the context of our reality-show-dominated media world.