Some movies are more easily understood than others and it’s always a fun challenge to watch something that you might not quite understand on first viewing, it can be extremely satisfying to delve deep into a complex film and try to decipher its deeper meaning, in this list we will take a look at ten films that fit that bill as they are beyond explanation.
1. The Element of Crime (1984)
The Element of Crime is a hypnotic ride that flows like a dream, it may not always make complete sense and you may sometimes even second guess how you even ended up where you did, but that doesn’t matter.
The atmosphere of this film is so great and the style so hypnotic that you feel like you’re in the same state as the main character, and the dream-like logic that the story follows is both sound and somehow unsound at the same time.
While you’re in the dream it makes perfect sense, but once it’s over and you think back over it, you slowly begin to find all the little gaps, the things left unexplained, all the little things that don’t fully come together. But it doesn’t matter, the experience is just so strong, so intoxicating that it becomes utterly addictive.
Not everyone will like this, it’s a weird film that feels like a mix between Tarkovsky Light and Touch of Evil, a film that looks so good and has such a strong atmosphere that you might not even notice the story until the fifth time you see it.
This is one of the only films that really does capture the same indescribable feeling you get while watching a film by Andrey Tarkovsky, the quiet existential dread soaked in nostalgic melancholy, it’s such a unique feeling and even if this film doesn’t capture it as strongly as most of Tarkovsky’s work, but it’s still there and it’s absolutely beautiful.
It’s not a film for everybody, It’s a slow, dreamy and difficult piece of cinema that will leave some viewers cold, but those who are able to tune into its specific wavelength will enjoy the ride and come back to it time and time again.
2. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
Uncle Boonmee is a hard film to talk about, it’s an atmospheric marvel that’s really weird and has some scenes that can’t be explained (catfish) and shouldn’t fit with the rest of the film, but because of the relaxed atmosphere and meditative pacing of the film it all works wonderfully to create a truly great cinematic experience that will not leave your mind for a long time after watching it.
It may be really hard to explain or even grasp what it’s all supposed to mean, but it’s such a beautiful journey it ultimately doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the experience, and the experience is beyond explanation.
3. Dog Star Man (1961-1964)
Dog Star Man is a 74-minute long silent montage of fragmented images that tells the story of a man and his dog climbing a snowy mountain, the story is told in four parts and a prologue.
The film is probably the most abstract and experimental film on this list and really isn’t for everyone. The story about the man and the dog is only the surface level of the film, it can be interpreted in many different ways as the images themselves only imply meaning and ideas that you then have to read into and find out based on your own impression of the images what you think it’s about, it’s cinema of instinct, almost impressionistic in its approach.
The most common interpretation of the film is that the Prologue shows the birth of the universe and that the next four parts are a metaphor for man’s journey through life, the mountain being life and the endless climb signifying man’s eternal journey forwards, but all of that’s mostly dealt with in part 1 and then only in short fragments in parts 2 to 4.
In parts 2 to 4 it’s usually interpreted that we a seeing the life of the climbing man pass him by, he falls in love, has sex and becomes a father, all while he continues his climb the mountain.
The film is a short abstract epic about our long journey through life and it’s absolutely beautiful, it’s experimental nature will drive some people crazy with boredom but those who are able to get into it are in for a great ride.
4. The Mirror (1975)
The Mirror might be Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, it’s kind of hard to say as all seven films he made are unforgettable masterpieces, but The Mirror might be the best of them, at least it’s his most personal work as the film is a contemplation of his childhood and teenage years, the history of Russia, Poetry, art, nostalgia and of the human condition.
Every frame of this film is drowning in aching nostalgia for a better time long since passed, when things were simpler and life was full of happiness, it’s something that every human being should be able to connect to, we all have some place, people and time we wished we could return to and we look back to our childhood with rose coloured glasses and are filled with melancholic nostalgia over the beauty of the past.
The story itself isn’t that hard to understand, it’s the memories of an old man on his death bed, we never see him but we do hear his voice a couple of times. The structure follows the formless flow of thoughts and is more dependent on emotion over reason or logic, but what makes this film beyond explanation isn’t the story, the themes or the filmmaking but the way it makes us feel, it’s so personal yet so universal and hits very deep, and the emotion we feel is both so familiar yet so hard to put into words that it becomes all but impossible to fully explain.
5. Enter the Void (2009)
Enter the Void is probably one of the more easily understandable films on this list, the narrative itself is rather simple and easy to understand: Oscar is a drug dealer living in Tokyo, one night he gets betrayed by his best friend and ends up being shot by the police, he dies and his soul leaves his body and wanders around town watching the various people from his life while also searching for a way to reincarnate.
It’s pretty much exactly what it says, but even though it may be simple it’s still a really engaging and thematically complex narrative that’s so ambitious that the simple narrative throughline only helps when the film ventures into its more abstract sequences.
Because this film isn’t really about the story, it’s about the experience of watching the film. It’s a massive 161-minute epic that almost entirely takes place after death and is more focused conveying the experience of being a spirit wandering around the world of the living and seeing the aftermath his death had on the people in his life.
It’s a long, wandering, moody, neon-bathed epic which is so vast in scope and beautifully wild in its camerawork that it’s not for everybody. Some people will not handle the experience of watching this film, not only because it could possibly cause severe seizures in its most abstract moments (be warned, multiple shots of strong blinking lights for minutes on end), but also because it’s so long and so slow in a trippy kind of way that many people will most likely become bored half-way through and just won’t get into its meandering, free-flowing structure.
The story could have so easily collapsed under its own weight and not reached its ambitions, but Gaspar Noé directs every moment to perfection and creates such a strong mood that it hypnotizes you into a trance-like state, and you will be so engrossed in the experience of watching this film that the runtime will fly by so quickly that you won’t even believe it.
But not all viewers will fall under its spell, some will be left alienated and with a massive headache thanks to all the blinking neon colours and the extremely unconventional but strikingly beautiful cinematography, and even though it’s masterfully pulled-off and absolutely beautiful it might make some viewers seasick (kind of like Cloverfield, but with a more stable camera and a lot more neon).
Some viewers will literally not be able to handle the experience of watching this film, and that is meant in the least pompous way possible. Those who do handle it and are able to fall right into its mood and flow will be in for an experience of a lifetime, they will most likely fall in love with this movie and find the experience of watching it indescribable.