There are movies I enjoy, but it’s just hard for me to really recommend them for anyone else. It’s not that they aren’t good, it’s just that I know that for various reasons not that many people will like them.
Be it transgression, weird subject matter, utter tragedy, slow cinema, artsy fartsy content or something else, there just happens to be something that I know general audiences wouldn’t really appreciate, nor would even many of the more discerning viewers.
Yes, I’m basically saying I might be just a teeny-weeny messed up. Also, when I say ‘I can’t really recommend’, what I actually mean is I can’t recommend to most people. People do have differing tastes and having an understanding of those tastes might in some cases encourage me to slip these into conversation depending on the situation. I can’t just throw these at people whose movie experience consists mostly of waiting for the next Disney release (meaning Marvel or Star Wars), but maybe if someone has already seen all David Lynch and John Waters movies and is looking for something new, I could maybe bring these up. Maybe.
I’m not including horror movies. Those are a category of their own and while I do probably respect horror as a genre more than most, it just felt wrong to bring up those movies, when these largely depict something very similar, but leaving out certain genre embellishments. Also, because of their nature as genre movies, I would sometimes be more willing to recommend horror movies, because they are easier to compartmentalize. This left out at least Audition and Hagazussa, in case you want to check those out.
To be honest, I probably do bring these up in conversations pretty often, but I also end up regretting that (or more likely laughing at myself for even having heard of such a movie). I might have had a chance to slowly indoctrinate someone, but instead I’m trying to push them into the deep end. Probably no real harm done, but the teacher in me (which I am by profession) would like to be more careful about these things.
While going through my collection of movies for this post, I did think a lot about how disensitized I am to this stuff. There’s a lot of violent and weird movies in my collection. The movies on the list are actually pretty harmless when compared to some of the other stuff I have, but it’s hard to find the correct balance between transgression and what I like.
While these movies aren’t very mainstream, they aren’t really obscure either. Many film fans have probably heard of at least some, if not all of these. When writing this, I chose a specific friend of mine and since I was there to witness much of her introduction to and indoctrination into movies, I was able to choose a specific moment on her journey at which point I would have been able to push these movies.
(If you want details, she once actively decided to take a plunge into more art-y movies and thus borrowed a bunch of Ingmar Bergman films from me. I thought it might be a bit risky going like a dozen movies strong immediately, but it turned out fine. One night I was coming back from work very late and had to check something on my computer before going to bed. I happened to be logged into Facebook and so while I was trying to find whatever piece of information I was looking for, she noticed I was awake and called me up at 1AM and talked about Hour of the Wolf for about an hour. So, that would have been the time she would have first been open to the possibility of watching these movies.)
While I’ve listed trigger warnings, I am still a Finn, so nudity doesn’t mean anything to me, so I haven’t listed that as a potential trigger warning. Many of these do have nudity, though.
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Trigger warnings: realistic violence, implicit paedophilia, depiction of PTSD
The presence of Joaquin Phoenix sort of pushes the perspective on this movie into two distinct directions: either this was a dress rehearsal for Joker or this is the real-world version of Joker. Personally I’m more of a fan of this movie, so if you enjoyed Joker, you should probably seek this out.
Trigger warnings: incest, domestic violence
After The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos is now probably pretty widely known and people have probably sought out his previous work, including this one. Then again, based on the number of votes on IMDb, this is still less seen the previous movie. I guess movies in Greek have some trouble finding an audience.
The movie is about three adult children being raised by their parents in isolation. They have never been outside of their secluded compound, but as they grow up and their hormonal needs become stronger, the parents start to lose control.
Trigger warnings: paedophilia, incest
The patriarch of a family is have a birthday (I forget which one), but one of his sons decides to hijack the celebration to bring up the suicide of his sister and the circumstances leading into it. Namely, the systematic raping of his children by their. Well, this is a Danish movie and hygge kicks in (hygge being the quintessentially Danish philosophy of making sure everyone is comfortable and happy, whatever it takes) making it hard to get the message through.
Four Lions (2010)
Trigger warning: islamic terrorism, suicide bombers
A small cell of muslims in the UK want to take part in the war against the corrupt west, but they don’t really know how to go about it. It’s kind of an eye-opening movie. These men are not radicalized because of their fundamentalism. They are radical because they are accepted for what they are (well, you should just see the movie to get it, because Chris Morris, the director, is a bit difficult to explain for the uninitiated).
It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2011)
Trigger warning: depiction of mental illness
Originally a series of three short films, but here edited into one. It’s mostly a very simple stick figure animation, but at the same time, those simple figures also allow us to place ourselves into the situation more easily, as the mental state of our hero deteriorates.
Trigger warnings: animal cruelty, child suicide, adultery, slow cinema
The first hurdle is the seven hour running time (more like seven and a half if using the US formatting). I watched it in three sittings on consecutive nights when I first saw it.
It’s about the people in a small rural community and their struggles as a charismatic figure arrives and gives them hope. However, there are several other sideplots, which dominate huge parts of the movie, because of the very long takes Bela Tarr so loved to use. The movie begins with a ten minute slowly panning shot of cows walking through the town. That’s the kind of movie this is, but Tarr actually has a wonderful way making all this interesting. It’s actually kind of magical.
4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile or 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
Trigger warnings: abortion, rape
If you know anything about the history of Romania, you have probably heard about the rules on abortion back in their communist days. This is about a woman trying to help her roommate get an illegal abortion. It’s a soul-crushing movie. The most memorable scene (for me) is actually very simple. The main character is just sitting there among her boyfriends family having a celebratory dinner. She has just been raped and the camera just focuses on her face as she is just trying to keep it together.
Kanashimi no beradonna or Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
Trigger warning: rape, fantasy violence, but moving into the other direction (instead of making the violence more bearable, it actually amkes it more extreme), weird depictions of Christianity
I love the weirdness behind this movie. This is a Japanese movie, but it is based on a non-fiction book about witchcraft during feudal times. The book proposed that witchcraft was actually a way for women to escape their horrible situations. So, we get a japanese version of a story based on that. If for nothing else, this is a good way to get out of your bubble at least a bit, since you see how differently they view our culture, which should tell you quite a bit about how we probably get their culture wrong as well.
It’s a very simple animated movie, because the amount of animation is very small. It’s mostly just beautiful paintings being zoomed, panned or otherwise moved around, which was apparently a common technique in Japan back in the day.