After Melancholia

My second viewing of Lars Von Trier’s end-of-the-world film set me thinking on its origin, a depressive episode, he said, in which he noticed how outwardly calm he was. All of the three close friends of mine who suicided were like this too: you never would have known.

I once, however, with my then boss Alan Ashbolt of the ABC made a list of the thirty-two people we knew between us who’d successfully suicided and found in all of them a common factor: no sleep for forty-eight hours, or fifty.

One hanged himself after sitting up drinking Fosters and writing farewell notes to distant relatives and the girlfriend who had just left him, pregnant to another man. ‘Silly bastard,’ said his best friend Terry Bader at his funeral. ‘One more Fosters and he would have slept it off.’

I also addressed the funeral, to which the pregnant girl came. Toughest gig I ever played.

Many suicidal acts in politics have a similar cause. Depressed and awake for forty-eight hours Geoff Gallop resigned as Premier and shocked everyone — and started a trend that quickly took out Carr, Beattie, Bracks, Clare Martin, Beazley, Downer and Costello.

Two missed sleeps began all that, I believe, though Geoff does not (or so he told me), and his frank admission at his resignation press conference of his ‘clinical depression’, and Les Murray’s before him, and Andrew Robb’s after, and the publicity Jeff Kennett got, and rightly got, from his selfless work with Beyond Blue, made more acceptable, and even commendable, an admission of this disease, and took some of the sting, and the curse of secrecy off it.

I myself am not sure ‘clinical depression’ occurs as often as it’s cracked up to. But I’m damn sure sleeplessness does. Sleeplessness brings on paranoia, anger, bad decisions, emotional confusion, bad driving and a whole swag of divorce and AVOs.

Melancholia is a wonderful dramatisation ot this state, and the calm that hides it, but not from us, the viewers.

If the end of the world is too big a subject for you, see the first half, which is called ‘Justine’, and when the word ‘Claire’ comes up, scarper.

PS. The machinery is acting up again and it’s put my most recent and most thoughtful piece way down the column beyond your attention.

It’s called The Secret Language of Race and Religious Abuse and is I think worth reading.

  1. There is an unmentioned component to suicide; many a car ‘accident’ may be a disguised suicide.

    And many attempts fail, some because they are more of a cry for help, others for more technical reasons, others still because of (unwanted?) intervention.

    Depression and bipolar disorder are more apparent these days, partly for the same reason that cancer and Alzheimer’s are more common - we are living longer and not dying early from the dread diseases of previous centuries.

  2. It was thought for a long while that suicide was a ‘victimless crime’. But the little boy who goes into the barn and finds his father hanging by the neck is a victim, surely.

    I’m not sure about this, but I suspect the ‘cry for help’ attempted suicide is less frequent now, in part because of early diagnosis and targeted medication, in part because of shows like ‘In Treatment’ which educate and comfort and palliate depressives as no book or kindly doctor or encounter group could.

    I do think Geoff Gallop did a lot of good with his confession. And Stephen Fry. And Billy Connolly. And John Cleese. And of course Les Murray. And Andrew Newton.

    I don’t think Tony Hancock would have suicided now. He would have recognized the sorrow he he was in as jet-lag, had a couple of whiskies and slept it off.

Leave a Comment

* Copy this password:

* Type or paste password here:

8,094 Spam Comments Blocked so far by Spam Free Wordpress

NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>