If your life is getting a little boring and you have nothing to talk about at dinner or over drinks, make time to watch a f*cked up movie.
Sometimes we watch movies to live new experiences through fiction. Other times, we watch them because they offer a safe space to explore what we wouldn't dare to do in real life, because in real life we're not that open to confusion. We don't want our friends and family to confuse us. We want our social lives to be clear and smooth, to know our place, and other's roles in our lives. We don't want to be startled in the office or on the streets we walk through every day. We want the spaces we live in to be safe and predictable. That's true for most of us, but at the same time, we need excitement, to be surprised and disoriented for our amusement, to have something to talk about at dinner or over drinks. If you feel like your life is getting a little boring, make time to watch a fucked up movie. Here's a list to help you with that:
Primer, dir. Shane Carruth (2004)
Since its release in 2004, Primer has become a must in those lists of confusing or complicated movies, and it deserves it. Consider the fact that it had a $7,000 budget, and most of it was filmed at the garage of Shane Carruth, the same person that wrote, directed, edited, starred in it, and composed the score. To do all of that and make a shitty film is a remarkable thing, but Carruth managed to create a fantastic movie about time travel and ambition that takes you to dangerous places. The protagonists meet several versions of themselves and reach a point of no return where they can't make things simple again.
Jacob’s Ladder, Adrian Lyne (1990)
Despite being hard to achieve, many films have attempted to show the experiences of different psychological states instead of just telling them in a straightforward story. Most of the time, the results are flawed films that confuse the audience without providing further insight on the mysteries of the mind. Jacob's Ladder, however, is one of the few examples of success. It shows heaven and hell, the shocking experience of war, the intrigue of military experiments, and the hallucinations of a man living with paranoid schizophrenia. You won't understand exactly what happened by the end of it, but the film will stay in your mind for a long time.
Naked Lunch, David Cronenberg (1991)
William Lee, an insect exterminator that's addicted to his bug powder, is the personification of the famous and controversial author William Burroughs. One night, a tragic event triggers the story: William and his wife perform the William Tell party trick and he accidentally shoots her in the head. This film is a mixture of Burrough's fiction and his life, including the William Tell incident, which did happen to the iconic writer. In the movie, the event sets off the various delusions and hallucinations that afflict the protagonist. Extreme paranoia, typewriters that turn into huge insects, and an evil corporation are just a few of the many things that will make you think that Naked Lunch is the strangest film you've ever seen.
Synecdoche, New York, Charlie Kaufman (2009)
Caden Cotard is a theater director, but he could be any of us. This film shows us in a very literal way what our minds do every single day. We think about ourselves and our story, and we choose what we like and what we don't. From that, we create our role, and we try to stick to it. We do the same thing with others: we construct an idea of who they are and, if we like it, we want them to stick to it. If they don't, we get mad. If they don't follow their role, they remind us that life is chaotic. We can try to write their script but there's too much that can go wrong, and it always does. This movie will confuse you because the protagonist's desires and neurosis are familiar but look absurd when taken to the extreme. You'll either think he's crazy or you'll recognize yourself in him.
Coherence, James Ward Byrkit (2013)
This movie is another example of a filmmaker who doesn't need expensive special effects to create something incredible. This film's initial normality makes it feel like a documentary about upper-middle-class people having dinner and drinks. I don't want to spoil anything. I'll just say that in the first few minutes there's talk about a comet that will pass through the sky that night and will have some strange effect on... something. Just a casual part of the dialogue. But then, things get really weird. Just watch it.
If we're busy, life starts to feel normal. We start believing that what we're doing, thinking, and feeling make perfect sense, that there's nothing strange about being here, alive, sharing this space and walking side by side without stopping for a second to laugh or cry or scream about all of this strangeness that surrounds us. That's why we need confusing, fucked up movies, to release all the tension that comes from pretending we understand our own lives.
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