Top 5 Beautifully Tragic Independent Movies
Disclaimer: I’m not a film critic, I’m a photographer who gets excited about pretty, emotional things.
By the time I was 16 years old, I had become obsessed with drama, independent and art-based movies. This was to the extent that I could barely fathom the fact that - on my first day of film studies class - our teacher informed us that our lessons would largely encompass generic blockbuster titles.
‘But there’s so little to these films…’, thought the younger, less knowledgable me. 'What could possibly be of interest about easily interpretable movies that follow cliche, overused narrative tropes, structures and visual stylings?’
Eventually I learnt the error of my thinking, and how dense filmic scrutiny could extend, even in the most conventional of titles. However, my love for movies that differ a little from the norm never really ceased. If its obscure, super dramatic/romantic, bizarre, confusing and/or beautifully shot I’ll probably be convinced by the end that it’s changed my life somehow. Yes, it’s relatively pretentious of me - at least I’m honest about it.
Since my departure from university, I’ve found myself with a little evening time to watch movies again. Subsequently, I’ve proceeded with my incessant hunt, in which there is no final target, to find films that are worthy of my 'list’. This is a catalogue of cinema that has moved me via nothing less than pure, superlative artistry. To celebrate this continuation, I have decided to share a section of my list so far with you. Whether a positive experience or not, these flicks are sure to blow your mind.
If you’ve heard of a wonderfully talented American musician named Tom Delonge (that dude who played in blink-182 and somehow managed to make bad singing sound great), you might also be familiar with the numerous art projects completed under the alias and associated iconography of his band, Angels & Airwaves. Delonge has crafted a wealth of different media under Angels & Airwaves, but no other manages to compare to the 2011 LOVE feature length movie. Directed by William Eubank and produced by Delonge, LOVE is a truly gripping movie that aims to explore the unconditional human need for contact, connection and companionship.
At the very end of a long space exploration mission, astronaut Lee Miller becomes the last human in existence as an unexplained apocalyptic incident sweeps across the world. This event is insinuated only by Miller’s discontinued contact with earth. LOVE possesses a pace that is binary in nature; utilising calm, suddenly sporadic and inconsistent shots to expertly depict Miller’s descent into madness. These skilfully crafted scenes are successful in simulating feelings of irritability and hysteria within its viewers - perfectly epitomising the human need for raw emotion that LOVE strives to explore and present. In turn, we are guided towards the films resolution: Love is the answer; the reason for our very existence. To truly feel gratitude for those you have in your life, you need to experience LOVE.
’Why do we struggle to breathe a more righteous breath, when we all end up in the same place?’
This is a movie which is set in a town called Swansea, south-west Wales. What’s kind of wonderfully coincidental to me is that five years after seeing this movie, I am now dating a girl who’s lived in Swansea her whole life (200 miles away from my current location), and roamed some of the locations in the movie during its production. I also met a guy back in university who was actually in the movie as an extra! Kind of strange… anyways.
As a slightly bleak coming of age comedy about a lovelorn boy named Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), Submarine manages to adhere to, and subvert the conventions of the genre simultaneously. As Oliver tries to work out who he really is, he makes attempts to save his parents marriage and develop his relationship with his equally strange and somewhat pyromanic girlfriend, Jordana (Yasmin Paige). His naivety often results in ill-informed decisions and hilarious results.
I loved the striking performances delivered by the cast of the film; strong portrayals of refreshingly authentic character types. Additionally, the dry humour that remains consistent alongside more serious themes keeps the storyline concurrently sincere, yet humorous.
However, what I found most imposing about Submarine was its unconventional cinematography, visual triggers and narrative structure.
The camera work by Eric Wilson has an idiosyncratic, stylised dynamic; beautiful and often erratic. Alongside the choppy and quirky editing, this helps contribute towards the comedic undertones of the movie whilst remaining superficially alluring. The grain from the use of film cameras, and the use of only natural and existing artificial light, also contributes to Submarine’s 80’s era nostalgia.
Basically… it’s dope.
'You’re the only person that I would allow to be shrunken down to a microscopic size and swim inside me in a tiny submersible machine. We have lost our virginity but it wasn’t like losing anything. You’re too good for me, you’re too good for anyone.’
'The Tree of Life’ (2011)
This one is going to have you Googling explanations before the movie has barely begun. Its a CONFUSING film, but an emotional and gorgeously shot one at that. The cinematography is saintly and, as a photographer, I may have wept at little at this movie’s sheer beauty.
The film follows Jack (Sean Penn), the eldest son of a family as he reflects on his childhood in 1950’s suburban America: his relationship with his parents (Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain) his experiences and the premature death of his brother.. however..
The way the movie has been moulded comes across as more of a lengthy video-based art-installation piece, rather than a feature film. The manner and pace in which the films develops, projects an inarticulate dream-like quality; an exploration of themes, ideas and visuals with no real events to drive any gripping or discernible narrative.
It’s damn complex - at times appearing complicated simply for the sake of being complicated. Some might call it art, some might call it pretentious - I call it poignant and moving.
The Tree of Life is a fantastic movie, demonstrating Terrence Malick’s auteurist style.
'Help each other. Love everyone. Every leaf. Every ray of light. Forgive.’
'Never Let Me Go’ (2010)
Much like the central theme of this movie, this is one that I will never let go of (or forget). Based upon Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same name, NLMG follows its protagonists Cathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley). The trio are pupils at a school of children, all of whom were born and raised to be healthy, donate their vital organs and die young. Yeah.. it’s pretty grim. But hold up.. it gets additionally tragic.
A love triangle forms amongst the three and throughout the movies three act structure (spanning about a decade… I think) it becomes evident that Cathy and Tommy are meant to be. Deep down they knew this all along, yet by the time they act, they’re days from beginning their donations.
There is nothing more tragic than true love that cannot be allowed to exist. I’m getting worked up just thinking about it. Seriously, though… watch this movie. It’ll cut you up but you’ll know what it is to feel true gratitude and appreciation to be a free soul.
‘We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.’
'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004)
So on account of its cult status - and being that this is Tumblr - my number one is probably one that you’re already familiar with. For those unfamiliar, however, I will enlighten you.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tells the story of two seemingly incompatible people, Joel and Clementine (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) and the deterioration of their relationship. The films director Michel Gondry, presents a tender, endearing and intimate companionship that becomes reduced to a jealous, frustrated and dispassionate mess.
Sounds pretty conventional so far, right? Well, conventional it ain’t.
Overwhelmed and exasperated, Joel discovers Clementine has visited Lacuna Inc, a company which provides a form of brain damage; allowing her to forget she had ever met Joel. Devastated upon realising this, Joel has the same treatment performed upon himself. Joel’s erasure is what guides the films narrative.
Beginning in the present day as Joel starts his treatment, Eternal Sunshine traces back through the cherished memories of him and Clementine as they are removed one by one. However, as the procedure is occurring, Joel realises that he can’t bare the thought of losing Clementine for good; even if only as a memory. From the depths of his unconsciousness, Joel tries desperately to hold on to this paradigm of his psyche.
The reason I adore this film so much is the muddled narrative structure, the obsessively detailed mise-en-scene and visual triggers. This is to the extent that new little details and easter eggs seem to reveal themselves with every viewing. Additionally, the conclusions, lessons and themes of Eternal Sunshine are most certainly transferable to real life.
Although the movie appears as somewhat incoherent at times, Gondry somehow manages to find a perfect harmony within the films delivery; superlatively demonstrating the importance of love and memory, irrespective of life’s eventual outcome.
It’s kind of difficult to express through words the impact that this movie has had on me, and the cinematic quality I think it possesses. It’s gorgeously shot, magnificently executed and hard-hitting. The soundtrack by Jon Brion is also expedient and gets you RIGHT in the feelings. It’s one of those films that makes you feel as though a deep, innermost element of your being has been changed somehow. It did with me, at least. It’s breathtaking.
'What a loss to spend that much time with someone, only to find out that she’s a stranger.’