5. Persona (1966)
Ingmar Bergman’s enigmatic masterpiece assesses the human psyche with the story of Alma (Bibi Andersson) and Elizabeth (Liv Ullmann). Alma has been assigned to take care for Elizabeth, a famous actress who arbitrarily loses her voice and has become a mute. We witness the two personality become one another’s persona.
Bergman is able to convey a in-depth study, effortlessly aware of the psychology of people, which is accompanied by strikingly beautiful visuals thanks to cinematographer Sven Nykvist. The first five minutes depicts complex and startling visual symbolism with very surreal set design and tones but it’s also very well shot with great directing and lighting.
The direction from Bergman is very simplistic with static cameras, but the density of each scene and the powerful and unforgettable dialogue is what keeps the movie kinetic, especially in audience’s mind where thoughts and questions are constantly overflowing.
4. Eraserhead (1977)
Yet another black and white debut with David Lynch’s Eraserhead, maybe the most surreal and weird on this list. The movie aimlessly follows the protagonist Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) in his life and the people that surround him; his mutant baby, angry girlfriend and the woman who lives in his radiator who sings how ‘everything is fine’.
Lynch’s surreal trait started from the very first movie he made, Eraserhead. The symbolism in this is probably the weirdest but consequently the most memorable with things including the moving, bleeding chicken, Mary’s dad grinning and Henry actually being made into a eraserhead.
The direction and cinematography is excellent throughout, with uncomfortable and claustrophobic set design, props and black and white look all help contribute to the gloomy and depressing life illustrated by Jack Nance. After one watch, you will be burned with depressing yet beautiful imagery however, after numerous watches you can piece the absurdity together.
3. Synecdoche New York (2008)
Charlie Kaufman’s directing debut Synecdoche, New York falls nothing short than a masterpiece. This isn’t his first screenplay, apparent by other fantastic works including Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, this is easily his most complex and elaborate.
Upon first watch, you may be overwhelmed with the complexity of the plot but can easily admire the effort and start to make your own interpretation. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman delivered an excellent performance, plus the directing and vast set design all contribute to the realism of this movie.
Caden Cotard, a theatre director, fearful of death, is struggling with himself and family. He deals with his worries by constructing a immense scale play in a mock-up of his city.With sub-plots and subtle details that can be explored and analysed to reveal greater context.
The movie is depressing but moreover thought provoking. Kaufman is able to blend surrealism, gloom and depression into one distinctive yet accomplished experience.
With our protagonist’s last name being Cotard, referring to a condition where one think their death would help with their journey. How Caden focuses on large scale piece whilst his wife, Adele, produces very miniature paintings reinforcing how Adele doesn’t value life, by simply not seeing the ‘big picture’ Caden evidently does.
In one scene, background noises refer to the date, despite only being between simple cuts, reinforcing the idea of how time is slipping away. These examples skim the base of this movie. The movie is patiently waiting to be teared apart into fragments by its audience.
2. The Holy Mountain (1973)
The second movie hauling from the crazy mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky with his third feature film The Holy Mountain. The Holy Mountain will entice you from the opening shot.
The movie compacts masterful symbolism with every object, set, character serving a purpose and this is far from randomness. The beautiful cinematography, fantastic and intricate set designs all get you swallowed up by Jodorowsky’s mad yet extraordinary mind.
How can I briefly explain The Holy Mountain? The film firstly follows a man simply named The Thief, who resembles Jesus. After various circumstances he meets The Alchemist, played by Alejandro himself, who offers guidance to a journey to The Holy Mountain with 7 other characters, each represented by a planet. This short description does not give the movie its deserved justice.
The level of depth and intricacy in each and every engaging scene with Jodorowsky is able to comment on things like religion, art, violence and politics all in this beautiful and mind-bending experience of 114 minutes best viewed on the biggest screen in the highest definition possible.
1. Mulholland Drive (2001)
In this complex and non-narrative movie, Rita (Laura Harring) is involved in a car crash, wiping all memory of herself and with the help of Betty (Naomi Watts), she wanders around Hollywood and follows clues, trying to piece together Rita’s former self. Not everything is as it seems, the complex plot make you question and construct your own non-linear timeline.
With David Lynch directing, he paces the movie well with a lot of suspense but also adds his own ‘Lynch-esque’ style and characters. The movie is hard to follow but this doesn’t make it boring or pointless to watch with intriguing and intelligent points in the script.
Lynch hypnotises viewers with dreamy and surreal scene including insanity and nightmare inducing characters repeating ‘Silencio’ and the man who lives behind Winkie’s diner. He’s able to suck you in and engulf you by following the vulnerable and naïve characters of Rita and Betty as they simultaneously do. The movie will leave you sleepy, as if you’ve just waken up from a dream, or was it a nightmare?