Irreversible (2003) – Gaspar Noe

By refusing to follow through in a chronological format, Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible deflects one’s perspective on violence, sex, and crime in films. The film is frank, explicit, and ironically, reversible in every sense. It has structure, definition, and motive in both ways. Though watching it irreversibly, or as it is, is undoubtedly more cerebral.

The film places plenty of emphasis on expression. Expression by sound, light, and the spaces in between. It’s fast-paced, all-pervading, and unwatchable. Never have I seen such a repulsive film with such strong a message; that violence, when seen through the lens of revenge, is ugly and non-censored.

And the crime, which is one of the most disturbing scenes of the film, manifests as physical pain, unflinchingly felt, through spasms and bouts of shock, disgust, and anger. You’re cornered to a point of no return where what is at stake is how much you can endure and if you do watch every second of the film, there’s no way to recover from what you’ve just seen.

Irreversible recoils in time. It possesses extremity in sight, sound, and rhythm. It lacks the blurriness that we’re generally conditioned to in films and so the cinematography really puts one in an uncomfortable spot. It argues what reality can be when denied of its televised and printed privilege. That one can’t exploit crime when it’s right in front of you. So what if a film makes it moral – without allowing you to shut your eyes.

Spirited Away (2002) – Hayao Miyazaki

Spirited Away is considered as Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus. It strips quintessential animated films of its emphatically exaggerated genre. While Miyazaki brings this film a little more down to earth; embracing a mystical and profound manner. The film draws its essence from its monumental conception. The stringing together of microscopic elements; a brilliant stroke of genius in imagination and creativity.

Spirited Away considers the universe as it is. And that is in its infinitesimal and varied format. It’s a film about sensibility, empathy, and philanthropy. A reverie which reflects the generous aspects of human nature up against the most repulsive. Untranslated feelings, a dictionary of characters, and lyrical affectations later, this film holds its lighthearted tone from beginning to end.

If you allow it, this film can fill you up with a sense of whimsy and wonder. Sometimes explicitly, sometimes in whisperings, and sometimes in anguish. Spirited Away has a way with both its characters and words. It’s like paying attention to the night sky spotted with stars; each star demands attention so you can never forget their luminous glow even if it’s not a part of this world… or yours.

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

Only a few memories in life want to be remembered. And the remaining seeps into our consciousness; partly forgotten and without much effort, they rise to the occasion when we least expect them to. Is that what memories entail? And how do we place them, at the end of the day, behind closed eyes?

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes feels too close to the heart. A quick read, no doubt, for the most part, this book is a figure of philosophical reverie. A reverie that shies away when we first see it, but it slowly unravels and defines itself. All you have to do is give in. There’s a lot to reminisce in between the small details that the book brings to the surface. It follows the thoughts of a soul whose estimation of the world is personal and sentimental enough to leave behind as a legacy.

Immersed in its time, the book’s sensibility is not hard to grasp. After all, when old age inquires about its youth, wouldn’t we all instantly deepen the pool of our essence with every drop of memory. And cast a net over all our clarifying, saddening, and comforting moments. The Sense of an Ending embodies such an effort; deeply satisfying, resilient, and redemptive.


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Hereditary (2018) – Ari Aster

The scope of Hereditary is much deeper and coarser than what you might assume within the horror genre. The film evokes an emotional and psychological reaction; destroying the cliched setting of a scary film.

The process of grieving is a stagnant and remote one. And it brings feelings of isolation as much as the destruction of self. What this film does is it creates an atmosphere in which it is impossible for the characters to relate to one another. They grieve but secluded, confined, and forsaken. And so the film is inspired in the way it is executed.

The most gratifying aspect of the film lies in its cinematography. It does more than capture the essence of the characters; it escalates their every movement. And as the movie gains momentum, the weight of every scene is chilling to the bone. You don’t know what’s going to happen next until it does and you’re so completely shaken by it.

I’ve had unsettling thoughts about the film when I first saw it. But now, after having watched it again, I did not resist its disturbing and disquieting personality. It does tackle the traditional family tragedy in a consistently horrifying and complicated way. Which is central to its appeal: that it’s not cut out of the ordinary jump-scare tactics. To watch it is to drift into the most unexpected corners of terror that are hard to shake off.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

The tide of loneliness is a personal one. Its fabric is shrouded in a sort of reverie that floats over the horizon like a mirage. Only visible to you, it blurs every path in your way. As much as you want to get closer to it – to embrace it, make something of it – the farther and farther it walks away from you.

Inside Llewyn Davis tells a tale of what it means to be far inside of oneself and far outside. It connects with you, in the strangest way, because it’s an honest film. Films like these are hard to come by. And once they do follow through – a bittersweet pill that is hard to swallow – it’s memorable.

The film is cloaked in isolation and sadness. About a struggling musician in the early sixties, the protagonist embodies an inner voice. Fragile, intense, and unheard in a world defeated with people. Inside Llewyn Davis creates an unbeatable world in which you see him travel from a single point of failure to another. Rejection after rejection pulled into the direction of numbness and apathy. Such is the gruesome path of loneliness in art that couldn’t have been art without it.

It’s an unforgiving film which is quite characteristic in its making. The cinematography is deeply inviting and pulls you in instantly with the help of subtle cues shadowing some of life’s most significant questions. Dialogue which is as surrealistic and shattering as the setting in which it is being said throws humor into the mix beautifully. It really contemplates what we find difficult to finish; that is the ability to map our struggle in a territorial world.

Frances Ha (2013) – Noah Baumbach

A poignant film about choice and the sum of one’s microscopic dealings with life. Frances Ha is what leads to up your grandest moments in life and what they cost you. At the expense of a miserly and lonely life does the protagonist, Frances, swim through a diminishing reality. A reality in which there are blurred friendships, scintillating conversations, awkward encounters, unfulfilled dreams, and insufficient desires.

Maybe there’s also a hint of truth in them all. A sense of raw goodness that is often the extension of one’s true self. And through that path is the ethos of self-expression and sentiment. The kind that sticks for a long time; like the first rain falling on thick, dense grass.

Movies like Frances Ha must continue being imperfect, a bit unsure, but revelatory and comforting, nevertheless. Watching this film is like looking into a mirror and having life’s story told. Its manifestation, intention, failures, and rewards. What life takes with it and what is left behind.

For such movies do not remedy the sharp edges that often soften our skin. They are involuntarily attached to the world. They must impinge upon our self-made delusions about love, passion, and attachment. Until what’s left is a reflection that looks back at us; that is, on days we don’t feel strong enough to look in.

Moonlight (2016) – Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight guards the fragility of what it shows to be a man. It gains most of its sentiment and volition in the way it’s told. Every nuance is engrossed in its own story. The film is divided into 3 chapters: from when the protagonist was a boy to a teenager and finally as an adult with roles to fill.

The film takes a microscopic perspective on the life of Chiron. The groundwork laid down to express such inexpressible feelings is difficult to compose. And yet, Moonlight draws you in so effortlessly into Chiron’s world. And through it all, the experiential capacity of this film is colossal.

We are all measured against our ephemeral presence in this reality. But to a young boy struggling with identity, this existence doesn’t feel so short any more. And to bring such fragile life questions with you and to have them unanswered as you grow can be even more daunting.

Moonlight makes this sentiment seem emphatically perceptible in a limited and questioning reality. Which is one of the most significant aspects of the film. To watch it is to endure some of the most important questions of existence and identity.

Chungking Express (1996) – Wong Kar-Wai

A melancholic film that is comfortable within its own set of rules, Chungking Express is silence suffused with expression. The film is soft in the way that it’s unrestricted. It is packed with dialogue that transcends normalcy and with colors that beget an eccentric reality.

The film materializes more than just a feeling. Hence, it stands as its own defense against the justification of that feeling. And so there’s no knowing what lingers within the surface of the film; at least not until the deep presence of each character’s realities is sought. And to do so takes much courage and empathy which isn’t well-suited for a light-hearted audience.

The film is ambiguous but with its own rare personality. It digs into everything from loneliness, loss, heartbreak, and expectation to what it means to earn a living and how one’s livelihood can never be one’s true reflection of self.

The structure of the film and its narration take up a poetic place. The cinematography pulls you in, from time to time, in an engaging and comfortable manner. Until finally, it drops you into its intricate elements so thoughtfully and sentimentally – it’s discovering life in its purest form.

If you pay attention, you will find that this film’s details contain its whole. The gestures, stillness, and generosity of the first story are portrayed alongside the second. But fate is such that they’ll never meet. Maybe this is what gives Wong Kar-Wai’s films a unique and nostalgic sense of wisdom. To watch it is to instill essence into the simple as much as the grand scheme of things. A gentle, corrective reminder that the proof of our existence is not in what happens to us, eventually, but what we do, as much in our thoughts as in our actions.

The Double Life of Veronique (1991) – Krzysztof Kieslowski

A film intricately shot, as the life of Veronica, and then the life of Veronique, is reflected back and forth in a dreamlike and hypnotic way. The Double Life of Veronique illustrates the power of unaffected beauty. It’s a pure and sentient film. It moves as you do, in time and feeling, just when you’re about to grasp the whole of its atmosphere and rhythm.

The film is like a reflection you’d see on a deep and translucent patch of water. And you want to lean in closer and closer and tap the almost-too-perfect surface until you realize that it’s perfect because it is still. A film that evokes such a sentimental canvas is a film that remains unforgettable. There’s no other way to understand it, but with profound love and empathy.

Love and empathy for the lives that live parallelly to our own. The faces we make up and shed and go back to and that, in the end, perish only because we evolve and the masks don’t fit anymore.

The film is about identity and becoming it. Which often collides with the possibilities of human destiny. What’s so cruel yet honest about this film is that we are only capable of loving others in our thoughts, feelings, desires, and fears. This is not because we’re made from the same star-stuff. But we carry within us all of nature’s vibrations and hues; intricate, boundless, and personal. And so we can never truly recognize others as they really are but only as we are. And in that, is loving and living, as we know it.

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

We extract the good and the bad in life. Accept it. And still, remain confined to what feels familiar and ours. Books like The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath must be re-read until you find it impossible to think of a time when you didn’t fall into such a lacuna. Sylvia Plath’s novel is at the center of her being. And if you’ve read her poetry, the whole thing unravels itself page after page in The Bell Jar.

Modern life doesn’t meditate on such loneliness the way this book does. The seriousness of it lives on which is wired to Sylvia’s emotions as my own. Its vocabulary consists of angst, fear, loneliness, and sadness.

Some of us feel loneliness in the lack of intimacy, some in conversations, and some in emotional support. And there are some souls that feel it all; all at once and for a long time. This stretch of time refines our sense of being, doesn’t it? And while this happens – we lose things too.

The urgency of Sylvia’s time and circumstances are deeply grounded in the book. Its characteristic quality is her seeking for answers that reality failed to provide, that relationships punctured, and society considered unspeakable.

The Bell Jar is Sylvia’s lonely voyage into self-reflection. Which often surfaces in these pages as wisdom, as courage, and as intimate fragments of her. Which only a book could contain and not the world.

The Bell Jar reminds us of life’s unwavering insignificance. Its inescapable loneliness. Which is as much yours as it is mine. And it is the measure of the things we don’t say. To read it is to grasp what’s remaining even after language ceases to exist.


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