“Photography is truth. The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second” – Jean-Luc Godard
From Akira Kurosawa to Sidney Lumet, many directors have managed to create great movies illustrating the nature of truth. Here is a list of some exquisite works of art on this subject.
10. Oleanna (1994)
Written and directed by the prolific filmmaker David Mamet, Oleanna is an intense drama with only two characters. This criminally underrated film, which is based on Mamet’s play of the same name, is a social critique of the educational system.
To be more specific, the film follows the intellectual conversation between Carol (Debra Eisenstadt), a young college student, and her professor John (William H. Macy). Carol is a young female student who can’t understand her professor’s book about modern education. The professor, who is about to be granted tenure and buy a new house, offers to help her understand his lesson and promises to give her an “A” if she comes back for some extra sessions. Unfortunately, John’s career and personal life is at stake, when he is being falsely accused by Carol of sexual harassment.
It is quite obvious that “Oleanna” is David Mamet’s contribution to the controversial debate about sexual harassment. The film depicts the danger of the extreme application of feminism, language manipulation and human hypocrisy. David Mamet also addresses ethical dilemmas about political correctness and freedom of speech. Additionally, the film reveals the difference between facts and the nature of the truth.
All in all, “Oleanna” is an underappreciated drama with powerful performances and great dialogues.
9. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)
“Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” is a hypnotizing tale about dreams and desires. Inspired by the Lewis Carroll’s story “Alice in the Wonderland and the Coen brothers film “Fargo”, the film mixes surreal elements with dark humour. It is a symbolic tale that depicts how dreams affect our own reality.
The film is loosely based on the “Takako Konishi” story, the film continues the urban legend of a young Japanese girl who is destined to find a hidden treasure. Kumiko (“Rinko Kikuchi”) is an introvert Japanese girl who finds a VHS tape of the critically acclaimed movie the “Fargo”. When she plays the VHS tape, she immediately becomes obsessed with the idea that there is a hidden treasure in the Fargo snow. Thus, Kumiko embarks on a spiritual adventure through the cold valleys of North Dakota to discover the buried treasure. Although she doesn’t speak english, she is determined to find the hidden treasure and fulfil her dream.
It goes without saying that “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” depicts the illusion of truth and whether truth can be subjective or objective. The film portrays excellently a troubled character who seeks desperately to find the life’s true meaning. Although she believes that something is true when it’s not, she is determined to defend her beliefs.
Despite the fact that the “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” received mixed reviews upon its release, it is a deeply moving story with philosophical subtexture. This would definitely be a pleasant surprise for all the lovers of cult cinema.
8. La Vérité (1960)
The legendary French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot (“Les Diaboliques”, “The Wages of Fear”) creates another intense courtroom drama about deception and betrayal. “La Vérité” (aka “The Truth”) is Clouzot’s effort to discover the nature the truth.
Brigitte Bardot stars as Dominique, a gorgeous young girl who has left her parents to live a liberated life with her sister in a small apartment in Paris. Although Dominique is every man’s desire, she is a troubled young girl with suicidal tendencies. When she meets Gilbert, her sister’s boyfriend, she seduces him and he falls in love with her. Eventually, they become lovers and decide to live together. Everything goes out of hand when Gilbert is found dead and Dominique is accused of murder. Dominique who is faced with the death penalty, has to prove that this was a crime of passion.
‘La Vérité” is Henri-Georges Clouzot’s view of the conflict between truth and social justice. This powerful drama depicts that sometimes is difficult to judge the truth of a statement.
Despite the fact that “La Vérité” is a subtle commentary of the bourgeoisie lifestyle and conservatism, it was criticized by the directors of the New Wave. However, this powerful drama was nominated for an Oscar Award for the “Best Foreign Language Film”. In addition, Brigitte Bardot delivers one the best performances of her career as a breathtaking femme fatale.
To sum up, “La Vérité” is an overlooked film of the French cinema that deserves more love and attention.
7. The Hunt (2012)
Thomas Vinterberg (“Festen”), who co-founded along with Lars Von Trier the Dogme 95 movement, creates another emotionally demanding drama. “The Hunt” (aka “Jagten”) is a disturbing tale about lies and social injustice.
Set in a small Danish town in Christmas, the film follows the unsettling story of a kindergarten teacher, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) who is falsely accused by a little girl of sexual harassment. Eventually, Lucas becomes the target (the black sheep) of the whole town receiving multiple threats on his life. Lucas struggles not only to prove his innocence, but also to get his son’s custody. His life is torn apart by a little white lie and there is no one that can save him from this nightmare. Thus, Lucas has to prove to each member of this local community that he is not either a paedophile or a sexual predator.
It goes without saying that the Danish filmmaker manages to create a bleak depiction of the danger of mass hysteria. In addition, the film depicts how a little innocent lie can destroy a man’s life and ruin human relationships. The film stands out as an academic examination of human hypocrisy as well as a subtle commentary of social injustice.
On the other hand, the spellbinding performance by Mads Mikkelsen, the gorgeous cinematography and the exceptional direction create a tense atmosphere.
This powerful drama was not only applauded by the critics upon its release, it was also nominated for the “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 86th Academy Awards.
6. The Offence (1973)
“The Offence” is undoubtedly one of the most underrated movies of Sidney Lumet’s filmography. This hidden gem isn’t just a great character study, but also a magnificent psychological thriller about police brutality.
Based on the 1968 stage play “This Story of Yours” by John Hopkins, the film follows the story of police detective Johnson (Sean Connery), who has been on the Force for twenty years. Johnson is deeply affected by the various crimes (murders and sex crimes) he has investigated. Now, he is a psychologically and emotionally unstable detective who is investigating the disappearance of a schoolgirl.
When the girl is found dead, Johnson believes that the suspect of the murder is Kenneth Baxter. However, Johnson is suspended since he has brutally beaten Baxter to death in a rage while interrogating him. Then Johnson is interviewed by the detective Cartwright about that tragic night. What follows is a series of flashbacks and thoughts about what really happened.
Overshadowed by Sidney Lumet’s other great works such as “The Network” or “12 Angry Men”, “The Offence” is a disturbing thriller about power, corruption and lies. The film stands out as a realistic portrait of a deranged character who has to face the moment of truth. Sean Connery absolutely shines as a violent police officer delivering a breathtaking performance.
Overall, “The Offence” is a tense psychological thriller that will definitely stay with you for a while. A criminally underrated film that is now ripe for discovery.