Over the years, my friends have learned to be nervous when I recommend movies. I have discovered the hard way that sometimes movies that I find amazing and can't wait to watch again can be traumatic viewing experiences for some people. Below are three films that are on my favorite films list, which should give you a taste of the kind of films I will be discussing as this column develops, and also have earned me a lot of comments along the lines of "Oh God, Sam, why did you make me watch that?" Enjoy.
Charlotte Gainsbourg as the most disturbed character of her career
Antichrist by Lars von Trier
As much I believe that Lars von Trier is the most absurd figure in movie-making today (he earned some hate by declaring that he understood Hitler at Cannes in 2011. You can watch that massacre here), I find his films to be incredibly well-made, so expect to hear more of my thoughts on him as I write more of this column. My first experience with von Trier came through the controversy Antichrist gathered at Cannes 2009, where viewers demanded that the director explain why he made the film. Antichrist has everything civilized people despise: genital mutilation, misogyny, dead children, and, of course, a talking, self-devouring fox. I loved it so much I watched it again the morning after my first viewing. The cinematography is mesmerizing (and I'm not talking about the slo-mo shower sex), and Charlotte Gainsbourg never ceased to impress me with her ability to switch effortlessly from soft-spoken melancholia to demonic rage.
I watched Antichrist once with a guy I was dating. He almost had a seizure during the final scenes. We weren't dating for much longer after that.
(USA Remake) by Michael Haneke
The haunting official movie poster for Funny Games
In 1997, Haneke made the original Funny Games in German, and later in 2008, remade it shot-by-shot with English-speaking actors, including Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Haneke aimed with this film to show violence for what it is really is ("I try to give back to violence that what it truly is: pain, injury to another," he says1) by making a horror film without the typical plot elements that make a murder-thriller enjoyable to watch. He toys with expectations, killing off characters that would be safe by Hollywood thriller standards, teasing the audience with false hope of salvation for the characters, breaking the fourth wall, and absolutely refusing to let the audience be comfortable. Funny Games is not a enjoyable film to watch, but I've seen it many times and have the movie poster, featuring a crying Naomi Watts, on my bedroom wall. Haneke has made a genius horror film, one in which the characters suffer, there is no logically explanation for their suffering or any redemption to be found, and the audience leaves the theatre feeling what they should feel after witnessing the torture of another human being, namely, disgust.
I watched Funny Games for the first time with my thirteen-year-old cousin, who has a much stronger stomach than I when it comes to horror and often laughs and says things like "This is so stupid" during the torture-porn films that I can't bring myself to watch anymore. Afterward this one, she said with a frown, "That was really messed up," and we never talked about Funny Games again.
The Skin I Live In by Pedro Almodóvar
Almodóvar tends to make films featuring many gay or transgender characters,
bright colors, frequent and explicit sexuality, with the occasional murder or two thrown in. Even his more melancholy films (All About My Mother, for instance) feature plenty of comedy and light-hearted moments. For his most recent film, though, Almodóvar experimented with horror and created one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen.
Looks tame enough, right? Almodóvar has some surprises for you.
The Skin I Live In is not very violent. There are no monsters or torture scenes or any other typical horror fare. What Almodóvar plays with is the terror of losing one's identity, of being forced to be someone one is not against one's will, and he does it in the most cringe-inducing ways possible. I won't say anymore, because the best way to experience this one is to not know what's coming. The soundtrack is impressive, especially during more action-driven scenes, and fans of Almodóvar will appreciate the twists on his usual themes. Whereas in his previous films, he places a lot of emphasis on characters becoming who they want to be, in this one he takes on the opposite situation, where characters lose their identities and must cope with the ensuing devastation.
The friend I watched this one with saw the big, oh-God-why plot revelation long before I did and kept saying to me while we were watching, "I think I know what's going on, but I don't want to say anything, because it's too horrible." If you suspect you know what's going on, but you think it's too worst-case-scenario to be true, trust me, you're on the right track.
Feel free to share thoughts on these films or similar ones or to contribute your own tales of movie-night trauma in the comments. Thanks for reading.
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Jul 11, 2012 12:56 AM
|I can see you're going to be a fun read!|
I'm not familiar with any of these movies, and that's what makes it fun!
I look forward to your next column.
|J. P. |
Jul 13, 2012 11:57 AM
|The Skin I Live In was beautiful. Horrible, disturbing, disgusting, and beautiful. I saw it with my fiancé... it was the first time he'd ever gone to an art house theater. I've had a hard time getting him to go back. XD|
I'm not familiar with the other films on this list, and I'll admit that I really dislike horror... but every once in a while a movie comes along that's just disturbing and strange enough to grab my attention.
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Every other Wednesday
I watch cinema the way most people eat sugar: constantly and without consideration that I could survive without it. Sometimes I like to write about it.
I like movies, especially anything generally labeled “disturbing,” “bizarre,” or “trippy.” I collect movie posters but don't take very good care of them. I work in a library, which brings me much joy. I also like tea, dark beer, taking naps, and the art of conversation. I think the appreciation and creation of art, whether it be film or literature or music or anything, brings more meaning and value to the human experience than any other activities, which is my excuse for spending more time inside with movies and books than outside exercising and socializing.|
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