Thanks to guest blogger Trevor, who as always provides great insight into the movies he recommends. Even if as he says, he's not entirely sure he understands them all....
I consider myself a fairly intelligent filmgoer. I enjoy complex plots and don’t mind having to scratch my head for a while until I figure things out. There are however, some films where I continue to scratch my head long after seeing it. I’m not talking about the films that are needlessly convoluted or confusing due to poor writing. I’m talking about the films that leave me with the disconcerting feeling that I am simply not smart enough to understand them.
Donnie Darko is a teenage tale of metaphysical existentialism. If that sentence confused you then you’re all set for the film. When a being in a ghoulish bunny suit tells Donnie the world will end in 28 days, the stage is set for quantum-physics fueled conundrums. Exceptional performances and excellent writing make it a film I’ve enjoyed all 10 times I’ve seen it. I still don’t get, but I can’t stay away.
Tree of Life is the film that sparked the idea for this post. An undeniably beautiful film with some of the most interesting cinematography I’ve ever seen. At its most basic, it is the story of a childhood spent under a domineering father. Look closer however, and it is a poignant philosophical examination of nothing less than the very meaning of life. The film left me with the feeling that I was tantalizingly close to discovering a deeply important secret. If only I could wrap my head around it!
2001: A Space Odyssey is a true sci-fi epic. The film details the evolution of humanity from our crude apelike origins to space-faring astronauts. Though the majority of the movie is fairly easy to understand (neanderthals develop tools, astronauts journey to Jupiter, artificial intelligence tries to kill astronauts, etc.) the last moments of the movie confound the mind with a psychedelic trip into pure metaphysical abstraction. I was left with a feeling that something momentous had happened, I just wasn’t sure what.
Inception: With great acting, superb direction, and excellent action, “Inception” is a film that works on many levels. It is also a film that is about many levels. As we delve to deeper and deeper levels within the film’s dreamscape, following our characters further and further in the rabbit hole, we ourselves begin to lose track of what is real. We don’t quite remember where reality is; unsure whether what we are seeing is dream, memory, or perhaps something in between the two. An ambiguous ending leaves us head-scratching, wondering whether or not we’ve truly woken up. This one truly warrants a few re-watches, perhaps with a diagram or map to guide us through.
Synecdoche New York:Perhaps the most baffling film on this list, Synecdoche New York features a disillusioned playwright (played by the excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman) trying to find meaning in his life by creating the ultimate play. He rents a city sized warehouse to contain a city sized set populated by millions of actors all playing regular citizens. He hires an actor to play himself in the play, then he hires another actor to play that actor, then he hires an actress to play him as director, then he takes on the role that actor previously played and then he…I could keep going but I think you get the picture. With more layers and depth then you can shake a stick at, Synecdoche New York certainly fits the list.
If you can conclusively say you understand any of these films, add a comment. I’d love to stop scratching my head about them.