5. The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick
Terrence Malick is a filmmaker who bewitches you with beautiful imagery. Dialogues? They are mostly poetic and have a world of their own. But that’s what makes his movies so enchanting and profound. In this movie, his visuals are in exceptionally safe hands. Three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki captures a world so beautiful that we just want to live in it. Minus Brad Pitt’s character, of course.
The movie is about a man in crisis and the concreteness of the past. As this man thinks about his place in the universe, the movie forces us to think about time, gesturing at the origins of the cosmos and humanity in a series of images. How Kubrickian!
The portrayal of everyday life, visualized by Malick’s memories of his hometown, shows us space and time and spirituality. “The Tree of Life” has unbelievable visuals of the birth and expansion of the universe, life on a microscopic level, and evolution. This process leads to all of us. We were created in the Big Bang and now… we are here. Get used to it.
The movie itself is just one exquisite ode to existence. It is no wonder that it won the Palme d’Or. This is a universal topic that everyone is curious about. Who are we, where are we going, what is the meaning of life? All these questions lie at the heart of “The Tree of Life” and it’s a profound journey from start to finish.
4. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring – Kim Ki-duk
Some directors make you happy like Wes Anderson, some directors make you thrilled like Hitchcock, and then there are some directors who just make you question what just happened on screen. I call those movies “nudgers” because they make you want to nudge someone next to you. With your elbow. You just need to. Kim Ki-duk’s movies are like that. Some scenes are so confusing and even disturbing that you can’t bring yourself to look at the screen.
“Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring” contains moments that make you question basically everything. It is set almost entirely in a Buddhist monastery that is in the middle of a lake, within the remote forests of South Korea, and follows a monk through the cycle of his life.
The exquisite cinematography envelopes the audience in the natural scenery of the lake, as the five seasons in the title transform the landscape over the five sections of the movie that cover the different stages of the monk’s life. Kim plays the adult monk himself.
The movie is so rich. It contains life, faith, love, jealousy, cruelty, mystery, and redemption. The nature accompanies us in the process and adds to the profoundness.
3. Goodbye to Language – Jean-Luc Godard
Is there any cinephile out there who doesn’t envy Godard? He wrote for Cahiers du Cinéma, he directed some amazing movies at the peak of his career, he married some unbelievably talented women, and on top of all that, he still gets to make movies. He doesn’t plan to retire. In death, we can rest, right? Ridley Scott would approve.
“Goodbye to Language” is a late product of the acclaimed filmmaker’s career. That means he is very confident about what he can do. He is also free to do whatever he wants. Because you know what? No producer can say no to Jean-Luc Godard. The man is a living legend who almost single-handedly made the French New Wave happen.
This movie starts as a simple story: A couple on a holiday. But anyone who has ever seen a Godard movie knows that nothing is that simple. In “Breathless,” our ‘couple’ ends up in a situation that we would have never guessed in the beginning. But in between those iconic jump-cuts, they end up there. This film is similar in that regard.
Did I mention it’s in 3D? It’s in 3D. Here, 3D becomes an element in Godard’s career-long fascination with exploring cinema’s formal properties, its grammar, technique, and of course, technology. He uses it so originally in such a Godard way.
The film continually circles back to its idea that existence is about trying to reconcile the real world with the subjective experience of the world. “I will barely say a word,” says a voice, adding, “I am looking for poverty in language.” Seeing that the film is so richly expressive in every sort of language, this feels like a tremendous joke, one that only Godard can make.
2. Still Walking – Hirokazu Kore-eda
Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival with his new movie “Shoplifters.” But even before that, he had a devoted fan base, including myself. Because his movies are so profound and full of beautiful imagery. One of those movies is “Still Walking.”
Once again, we are face to face with a family drama. You’ve got to love those. Years ago, the most beloved member of the family – Junpei, the eldest son – adored by his parents and looked up to by his younger brother and sister, drowned while saving a stranger’s life. Every year the family gathers, as a Japanese tradition, to visit his grave and cherish his memory.
These occasions are hated by Ryota, the second son. His father blames him for not being the one who died. On the road to this annual occasion, Ryota tells his new wife that they must not stay the night. This will be her first meeting with the parents; she is a widow with a young son.
In many aspects, the director can be seen as the heir to Ozu, which is a great honor. But he surely deserves it with his remarkable talent for telling very human stories that impress you with their simple nature.
1. Beyond the Hills – Cristian Mungiu
The end is not near, it’s here. I’ve got a perfect movie to complete this list. I feel like I have so much to say about this movie, but there is not enough time for me to say it. All I can say is this: I watched it during a film festival and because there weren’t enough seats, I watched it sitting on the stairs. I have never complained to this day. It is that good.
“Beyond the Hills” is an arthouse film from Romania, yet, in its slow, grim progress toward a tragic exorcism, it becomes very similar to “The Exorcist.” But unlike “The Exorcist,” Cristian Mungiu’s movie – based on a true story told by Tatiana Niculescu Bran – laments superstition, ignorance, and indifference.
Somewhere in Romania, Alina visits her former boarding school friend Voichita at the Orthodox convent where the latter has become a devout Christian. It’s evident in their private moments that they once had an intimate (and most likely sexual) relationship, which Voichita now treats as a sin. Alina wants Voichita to run away from with her, but Voichita won’t do that. She wants Alina to do the same thing that she does and redirect her passion to Christ.
The convent’ Priest leads with a sense of pragmatism, but also with a strictly dogmatic interpretation of scripture. He sees Alina’s escalating attacks on the church only as Satan lashing out at the believers. Then comes the unbelievable idea that they should exorcise Alina. The rest is film history. It says a lot of things about blind faith that everyone should at least listen to.
The movie’s acting duo shared the Best Actress award at Cannes and director Mungiu took home the Best Screenplay prize. This profound movie certainly deserves all that and more.
Author Bio: Tugce Kutlu lives in Turkey. She was born a cinephile and is very proud of it. Tugce doesn’t discriminate between genres and she most definitely adores a good film no matter where and when it was made.