6. Primer, Shane Carruth
We’ve reached Shane Carruth’s second entry in this list. Primer was his debut long feature film, and it is known for two things: it’s minimal budget and disproportionately massive success, and how absolutely mind bending the plot is. Primer has had time maps made about it. Countless forum discussions, and hours of people trying to piece the narrative together in a linear way.
It’s no wonder since the film centers around two scientists trying to develop time traveling. It’s very confusing because it has multiple timelines, paradoxes, and the comprehension of time traveling itself. It’s also a very exciting film to decipher and fully recommended.
7. Enemy, Dennis Villeneuve
Dennis Villeneuve has made quite a splash the past couple of years, first with Incendies, then with favorite thriller Prisoners, and now with his new Cannes contender, Sicario. In 2013, he also made Enemy. Based on Jose Saramago’s novel “The Double”, the films stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who masterfully plays two people identical in appearance, but whose lives and personalities couldn’t be any more different.
Villeneuve’s directing is beautiful, it creates a bizarre, almost claustrophobic atmosphere, and the sepia tones of the film almost have us thinking it’s set in an alternate reality.
I still have not understood what the hell the final scene was about and how it tied to the related pattern shown throughout the film. Is it a story about the subconscious? Repetition, chaos maybe? Totalitarian regimes and the personal equivalent of psychological totalitarianism? It’s left for us to make sense of.
8. The Holy Mountain, Alejandro Jodorowsky
Jodorowsky’s cinema is surrealist, everyone knows that. But The Holy Mountain might be the crown jewel in his body of work. It is immensely hard to understand, contains infinite amounts of symbolism and mystic references, and generally takes a certain type of filmgoer in order to be at least partly understood.
There’s a lot of Tarot cards elements, a figure that resembles Jesus Christ, a quest to ascend the Holy Mountain, even a Fourth Wall moment. If you want to sit through Holy Mountain, you have to be prepared, patient and very, very open-minded.
9 – Honorable mention: Cloud Atlas, the Wachowskis
Cloud Atlas is based on a novel of the same name, was produced by the Wachowskis, and for some reason, I don’t understand. It’s become one of those movies that people either love or hate.
In my opinion, there’s little reason to hate it; the performances are good, the directing is good, music is good, makeup and special effects are awesome, costumes are awesome, but the cinematography, the world building, literally every technical aspect of the movie left me dissatisfied. A somewhat complex narrative and a long running time are probably the culprits for Cloud’s infamy, but it still seems like a bit of a stretch.
There are a lot of different plotlines, yes; there is the theme of interconnectedness, morality, and cause and effect throughout time and space, which I understand can be a bit much for people not used to three-hour-long philosophical sci-fi films. But still, it passes a very good message, and the narratives make sense.
Cloud Atlas is not as mind-bending or complex or confusing as the other films on this list, but its core philosophy presents an idea that is essential to many spiritual faiths, and also leaves a lot to think about on a personal level, concerning how we live our lives and how much we think about our actions.
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