8. Upstream Color (2013)
This is more like a trippy experience than a film. The second effort by Shane Carruth is free of plot formulas and the comprehension is no priority to the American director. “Upstream Color” is an exercise about understanding themes and putting abstract pieces into an allegorical puzzle. All in all, you get lots of clues here, but you don’t know exactly what you are searching for.
Shane Carruth’s film is a one man show. He wrote, directed, composed the music and is a main character in the film. If “Upstream Color” was a song, it would be an instrumental one. Dialogs are rare, but the absence of lyrics leaves space for meditation.
Metaphysical quote: “I have to apologize. I was born with a disfigurement where my head is made of the same material as the sun.“
7. Eureka (2000)
Shinji Aoyama’s film is not the easy and accessible one. Three and a half hours of Japanese cinema in black and white is not a tempting suggestion for many. There’s even a splendid shot with more than 10 minutes’ length.
Nevertheless, this is an awesome introspective bus journey. It all begins with a murderous bus hijacking and a trauma to be overcome. So, the traumatized survivors come together to take a road trip in order to reduce the damages.
What goes wrong then? A serial killer is on the loose. There’s an incessant feeling of fear, as if the killer was inside the bus. In fact, we travel on the complex tracks of feelings. Three and half hours passes, the bus massacre will be just a distant memory. “Eureka” is an existentialist reflection filled with moments of brilliant meditation.
Metaphysical quote: “Do you think one can live only for others?”
6. Mr. Nobody (2009)
Directed and written by Jaco Van Dormael, this is a unique film and a very hard one to explain. During more than two hours, the Belgian filmmaker plays with time, overlapping dreams and puts presence into in-existence. He also does multiple crosses between different spaces and life stages of Nemo, the main character. Surprisingly, or maybe not, in the end the answer to all this entropy is clear as water.
“Mr. Nobody” is very visual, but ironically, it’s all about things we can not see. It’s about life, love and decisions we (don’t) have to make. Van Dormael shows great direction in a film full of beauty, excellent acting, stunning montages and intentional opacity. Ah, I almost forgot, Jared Leto is a beast.
Metaphysical quote: “Everything we see exists, we can see it. I can see mommy’s eyes, but I can’t see my eyes. The little baby can see his hands, but he cannot see himself. So, does he really exist? Do I really exist?”
5. The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
Once upon a time in Poland, there was a girl called Weronika. At the same time in France, there was another girl called Véronique. They never met, but their lives are strangely connected. They both like music, they are clumsy and they live their lives intensely. At some point, Véronique starts to feel she’s “not alone in the world” and she starts searching for answers, but without success.
“La Double Vie de Véronique” is one of the best films by Krzysztof Kieslowski and it is a masterpiece. The story is reminiscent of the period when Europe was breathing art in all corners, but the metaphysics here is related to the way Véronique feels she is in another place, and she is like a duplicated woman. In fact, she was.
Metaphysical quote: “All my life I’ve felt I was in two places at the same time.”
4. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… Spring (2003)
The beauty of this film is out of this world! Ki-duk Kim builds an entire reality around an island house and a paradisiac view of nature, writing a Korean poem in a film shape. Seasons of the year are life stages here and we can follow a monk’s life during spring, summer, fall and winter or, should I say, his life.
All this beauty is so remote that some questions arise: Is this real? Does this place really exist? Where is it? Is this just fantasy? Sure it’s real… in Ki-duk Kim’s mind. In the end, we have the feeling that we were elsewhere. We don’t know where, nor when, but it is spring again.
Metaphysical quote: “Sometimes we have to let go of the things we like. What you like, others will also like.”
3. The Seventh Seal (1957)
“The Seventh Seal” is very philosophical (it’s a Bergman film), but it transcends the boundaries of philosophy, speculative thinking and existential dilemmas as we know them. Nothing seems really physical or existent during the film, but we still can’t take our eyes off it.
That still of Antonius Block and Death playing chess on the shore is paradigmatic about transcendence and the presence of unknown elements or entities. Those images shine on our eyes and stay remembered in our brain forever. Not as something that we saw, but like a fantasy or an hallucination.
Metaphysical quote: “I met Death today. We are playing chess.”
2. The Tree of Life (2011)
“The Tree of Life” is complex. Some will say Terrence Malick was on drugs (maybe he was). Others will say this is one of the best flicks of all time. The film tells the story of a dysfunctional family which struggles between good and evil, gambol and discipline, anguish and joy. A cinematic wonder of the new millennium, the film is a big monologue about God with a huge answer in the finale.
All is abstract, since the way Malick represents a brief story of humanity. The “Lacrimosa” part (music by Zbigniew Preisner) is one of the most metaphysical sequences in the history of cinema.
The meaning of “The Tree of Life” is open to the viewers and it can be understood in many ways:
a. A metaphor of God’s absence – Nietzsche’s way – God is dead and we are free to create truth and meaning;
b. The father is the personification of God for his son, in the way of “giving and taking back”;
c. A simple celebration of life.
Metaphysical quote: “Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them to have its own way.”
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
At last we reach the number one film on the list and one of the most important films ever made. I dare to say that everything in this movie is transcendental and metaphysical, maybe that’s why some love it so much and others just can’t understand it at all. From the use of the camera to the meaningful script nuances, “2001” is a film that transforms itself in time. It never gets old, because it’s forever new.
It’s impossible to feel nothing when watching this masterpiece. The images of the space are metaphysical by themselves and solitude is a friend that is always nearby. That sensation of being just a small dot in the whole universe is also very transcendental, in the way we feel very insignificant watching the film.
Kubrick was a god of the big screen and the grand finale of “2001: A Space Odyssey” shows all his talent and capacity. That final sequence is the perfect climax of a metaphysical experience.
Metaphysical quote: “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.”
Author Bio: Pedro Bento is a portuguese samurai, who travels with his wakizashi sword into the infinity of his mind, always forgetting his way home. He doesn’t believe in inspirational moments, but he likes to hide in a secret place, where heavy metal is always blasting and no one can bother him, except his apathetic girlfriend Inês. Yes, he’s a loner.