Cinema transports audiences into the minds of its director. We experience the director’s vision and depiction of the story. Most contemporary directors and production companies are under the assumption that the modern audiences lack the intelligence to construct their own interpretation and meanings behind what is happening visually and aurally and therefore usually rely on characters simply explaining what happened or be forced to feel a certain emotion.
There are some directors that see the importance of inference and therefore excel at creating pieces of art that serve to encourage audiences to manufacture their own interpretations and meanings behind this. Lack of explanation in movies allows audiences to have in-depth conversations and share their personal interpretations with one another.
Repeated viewings are beneficial to complex movie like these as they allow you to pick up on minute details that reveal greater context or meaning. They also allow viewers to have greater understanding and appreciation for the production of the film.
Movies are moving in the wrong direction but we are slowly peeling back older techniques, implementing them into smart and intelligent movies which not only prove to be a medium of art but an elaborate puzzle built to stimulate conversation and thinking.
10. Primer (2004)
Shane Carruth has really proved himself as a director, as well as a writer, actor, producer, editor in both Primer and Upstream Colour. These are his movies. We dive into such a complex and well-written mind with Primer. Being maybe the most infamous of ‘confusing’ and ‘complex’ movies.
Primer is a time travel movie, following 4 dudes, Aaron (Shane Carruth), Abe (David Sullivan), Robert and Phillip, but mainly focusing on Aaron and Abe constructing their own time-travel machine.
The movie works so well as the Carruth’s idea of time-travel exists in his own movie, making it unique but also interesting and new. His own ideas of time-travel work as time-travel is not real (yet) therefore Shane uses its non-existence to his advantages, implementing points like there are two versions of you when you travel back, future and present.
The film is complex, but that’s what it’s aiming for. The script is thought out therefore makes sense (sort of) after deep analysis, thinking and research. Unfortunately, despite no errors, the movie strives on complexity and therefore doesn’t give the audience much visually with aspects like cinematography and acting.
The immense pleasure you will receive from the film stems from research and online interpretations consequently having the pleasure of realisation of certain point of the script.
9. Melancholia (2011)
In the Cannes film festival press conference for his latest movie, director Lars von Trier talked about his understanding of Hitler and how he ‘is a Nazi’. During this time von Trier was suffering severe depression and alcoholism. Melancholia truly reflects its director’s own fears and depression.
The movie follows the struggle of two sisters’ relationship as their fears build about the impending collision of Earth and the illuminating blue planet Melancholia. Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, is caught in the field of depression, naturally, accompanied by her sister Clair, performed by Charlotte Gainsberg.
Dunst gives her best performance to date, by realistically being able to pull off a convincing melancholiac but giving great depth to her character with the film excelling at giving a true depiction of her condition and fears. The movie seems to split audiences into two: love and hate. However, undeniably Melancholia is beautifully directed and able to convey harsh conditions like depression so realistically and skilfully.
8. Pi (1998)
Darren Aronofsky directs this surrealist psychological drama where Max is obsessed with trying to find the number inside of Pi (π) that ‘will unlock the universal patterns found in nature’. His obsession leads him to self-destructive behaviour, trying to find that number that will make him rich. Made for a mere $60,000, Pi is the first endeavour into Aronosky’s distinctive directing style.
‘When I was a little kid, my mother told me not to stare into the sun, so when I was six I did…’ Throughout the movie we see Max obsessed with figuring out things, especially the number inside Pi, inevitably leading to insanity.
The movie has a very surreal tone but never pushes it to become unbelievable and therefore poses as a realistic movie which makes it even more the terrifying. Pi is able to incorporate sharp hyperkinetic editing and black and white cinematography into a short 86 minutes, but never finds itself tiresome, by always moving forward.
7. El Topo (1970)
Considered to be the original ‘midnight-movie’, having to draw in audiences at night due to its surreal and violent content, El Topo can only be described as an ‘acid western’.
Starring its Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, El Topo depicts the story of a mysterious gunfighter having to kill the Four Masters to secure his love interest. Jodorowsky stated that he wanted to make a movie that would give the effects of LSD without having to take the drug. Never is that more apparent than in El Topo.
The movie strikes visually with scenes like the opening, where The Mole and his son bury his teddy and image of his mother as now, he is a man.
For 1970, the movie is beyond anything of its time with ‘violent’ scenes, by today’s standard it would be seen as cheap with quick cuts, focusing on action only momentarily. However, this style of directing adds to the charm of El Topo; you cannot ignore the thought and intention of Jodorowsky.
Like all of Jodorowsky’s movie, El Topo involves mystifying and eponymous characters including The Mole, The Bandits and its array of crippled and disabled people. These all conjure together to create one abnormal movie that draws your eyes in, it will make you unable to look away from the chaos onscreen, but simultaneously it’s able to comment on important themes like religion and mysticism through its use of symbolism.
6. Upstream Colour (2013)
Upstream Colour lacks straight forward explanations and answers to the story but after all, the movie is directed, written, starring and produced by Shane Carruth.
Upstream Colour is warm and artistic but it shares similar characteristics with his first film as it takes deep analysis and thinking to understand. The images and scenes transitions too fast for your brain to process and piece together that scene into the puzzle.
The movie opens with ‘The Thief’ harvesting a small organism that, through experimentation, seems to give an unusual effects on the person’s body and mind.
Both Kris (Amy Seimetz) and Jeff (Shane Carruth) have been under ‘The Thief’s’ testing of his drug. They are drawn together and share a special relationship, which they struggle to assemble pieces of their former selves. Unlike Carruth’s debut film, Upstream Colour offers aesthetically beautiful visuals to accompany the puzzle buried deep inside itself.