Room for a Cry

Notes, Nov 10



A few months ago I read this very interesting article, called Primal Scream by Margaret Everton, that was published in the Adrenaline Issue of the Kinfolk Magazine. So when I was asked to write a paper on the topic urge for death for a class assignment, this short essay was the first thing that came to my mind. Because one can’t write on a topic on death without saying a few words about life, I decided in the first part of the essay to revisit Everton’s thoughts on the scream, “the evolutional survival mechanism. ” 

“At some point in our lives, we have all inhaled and belted out a sound ranging from a guttural wail to an ear-splitting shriek. Though our reasons might be unique, screaming is a universal impulse. In fact, the ability to scream is an evolutional survival mechanism: a survival of the loudest. This dramatic and often comical reaction heightens the awareness of both screamer and startled listener, telling each to watch out.” - Everton

Although we all understand the mechanism of a scream as a warning during the cave man days, it was quite interesting for me to explore this topic further. What is the scream now? How are we treating this little survival kit of The Loudest? How loud are we? Maybe we can best understand the concept of the loudest as an example of a traffic guard who is coordinating us with his whistle so we follow the rules of the traffic and avoid danger. Or maybe it’s an office worker in a regular office who lets out a strange sound from his chest at the moment when everything became just too much for him to handle. That would be unnecessary and extremely embarrassing for everyone. The coworkers would be terrified of that strange shout. In this case nobody loves the loudest, as they bother and upset. 

Everton is careful to emphasize how embarrassing, comic, and unnecessary the scream is nowadays. She finds it only in cinematography as an inside joke, and there is a scream that has been used in film since 1951, such as Psycho, Kill Bill, Titanic, Star Wars, and Peter Pan.

I love how Everton gave a beautiful end to her thesis with the invitation: 

“But our reasons for screaming can be a helpful, ear-splitting clue into our most primal fear and hopes. Whether our urge to scream comes while BASE-jumping or saying our wedding vows, this impulse shows us where our greater courage lies. So maybe instead of stifling our howls, we should let them free: Inhale, crank back, and put your lungs into it.”


To an ordinary person in everyday life, the survival instinct is not that much needed or developed as in the life of our ancestors. Through the centuries, threats to our lives have been reduced or we learned how to deal with them. I mentioned the traffic before and I will use it again as an example. For our distant ancestors, leaving the comfort and the protected area signifies the outside of their living area. For example, the jungle, the forest, or perhaps an expedition that brings the risk of meeting another enemy tribe. But for us, leaving home means going on the street. As a pedestrian, I am surrounded by signs and traffic lights that warn me to walk carefully; they coordinate my movements and know what is best for me as a participant in traffic.

As a small digression, I will mention a personal example. I’m a pedestrian who is usually very bored with traffic signs, and I’m always trying to shorten time at traffic lights and move myself when the opportunity is given and safe. I really enjoyed the traffic in Mexico City as there weren’t as many traffic sights as I’m ordinary used to. I guess the responsible ones think we are smart enough to judge for ourselves when we need to cross the street. On the street, we communicate everyone: drivers, passengers, and pedestrians with hands, mimics, gestures, and we negotiate who needs to pass. This participation in traffic makes you vigilant and alert. You are part of a common agreement between people, not between signs.


Avoiding collision is essential for maintaining peace. The film Melancolía (2011), by Lars von Trier, tells a story about a possible confrontation between two worlds. The planet Melancholia, which had  been hidden behind the Sun, is now approaching Earth. So, there are two options: Melancholia, in which there are no signs of life, will bypass the Earth or the planet will crash into it and destroy it along with all life on it. But in the end, Melancolía will collide with Earth. Although the new planet will destroy Earth at the end of the film, we feel calm; we are not disturbed that all life on Earth has ended. In regards to this movie, Slavoj Žižek, in a YoutTube video is reading the ending of this film as optimistic. He explains that the final end and the way how Justine accepts the finale is a “fundamentally spiritual experience of accepting that at some day everything will finish, that at any point the end may be near.”

The film begins with the wedding of Justin and Michael. Although Justin (Kirste Dunst) has a handsome husband to be, played by the Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård, on the day of the wedding she decides to exclude herself from all the events and requests from others. In the courtyard where the wedding is to be held, she performs social suicide and constantly retreats within herself; she is silent and constantly hiding. She has no will to complete the wedding that is a joke to both her and her parents. But when Justin is outside in front of the eyes of the new mysterious planet that is getting closer, she receives a strong drive for life. Then she becomes the loudest: she has sex with an unknown person, she finally tells her boss what she thinks of him, and she tries to prove herself. There is an interesting play of Eros and Thanatos. On the wedding where the life of the two lovers is celebrated she wants to die; out there is a planet that can kill all life on Earth, she feels alive.

Justin decides to give up. At first she falls in a deep depression, and her sister, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, is taking care of her. But then the roles change. The day when Melancolía is possible colliding with Earth is near. When Melancolía is threatening life of Earth, Justin becomes strangely calm, and Claire starts developing a rational fear: What if the worst happens? What if the worlds collide? What is going to happen to her son, Leo? Claire represents planet Earth, a mother who is worried about her child's life. Justin is the planet Melancolía - a woman whose causes cannot be understood nor investigated, and her behavior is mystical as the planet itself. The planet Melancolía represents the unexplored woman power that is starting to reveal itself and is ready to kill. In the second season of the TV show Fargo, the lead role is also played by Kirsten Dunst. The Cohen Brothers’ series describe events that took place in a small town in Minnesota. It's about a series of criminal events that led to the killing and death of many in a small place where nothing like that had happened before. In some scenes there is an unidentified flying object that upsets and overtakes the main male characters. In the first episode, this flying object will help in the killing of a troubled male character. He will be shocked by the appearance of the object when Kirsten Dunst hits him with her car. Years ago, I read this critic of the series who said that the unidentified flying object represents an unexplored and suppressed womanhood that begins to show its strength in this small town.


In the conversation between the two sisters, Claire is worried if the worst will happen and she is caring about her son. Justin says that the Earth is evil and no one will miss the people. She says she knows we are alone. Life is only on Earth… and not for long.

The scream here is in vain because there is no one to hear it. The question of the scream has a connection to the question of “the Other.” In the novel Dark Room, by Isaac Rosa, a generation of people meet every Saturday so they have an orgy. There is a scene where one of all will cast a scream. The scream is returning, but it’s returning because there is someone to hear it: the people with whom he has an orgy every Saturday. The other must hear you in the simplest way, as the first people did to survive. Perhaps that's why the modernists were suffocating the scream. Their cry is alienated. Because their relationship to the other and the world is always full of doubt and always paranoid.

However, it all ends in a cave, just like the example with our ancestors. Justin, in order to comfort Leo, builds a magical cave from branches that she says it would protect them from  Melancolía. In the last scene Leo and Justin are accepting Melancolía in a meditative state (Justin ready to finally put an end to everything, same as she waited for her wedding to end and Leo believing that they would be saved), and Claire nervous and weeping, unable to reconcile with the great end.

Next Notes are Coming Soon

In Praise of Stacking Books



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