As a Writer/Director, I’m constantly learning and taking inspiration from the many connoisseurs of cinema and even literary geniuses who provide anecdotes or just generally excite the mind to create visions of my own.
Lately, I’ve been interested in taking more ownership of my creations through my personal experience. Whether it’s from my lucid dreaming or even creating energy art which especially with the film I’m working on, it feeds into the overall sensory tone I’m achieving.
It led me to think about films which have had a profound effect on me and those directors who created intense scenes with transcendental elements where life/past life experiences can be difficult to understand. Here lies the unique perspective of the director who bleeds their soul into his/her work creating scenes of sensory overload. To be able to reach those depths of the mind and translate them onto the screen that it energetically affects the audience is something I’m passionate about. It’s why I love to analyse such works, to understand what it could possibly mean before of course reading interviews or critiques!
Take David Lynch, he wrote a book called ‘Catching the Big Fish’, in which he divulges how over thirty years of transcendental meditation helped him plumb the farthest depths of his creativity which enabled him to share on screen.
Yayoi Kusama is another artist who has created the most abstract of works through complex films and artistic installations, using her artwork as a form of therapy deriving from her past trauma and mental health. Kusama still continues to devise works in a mental institution in Tokyo Japan.
The condition of the artist is to condense and translate that very essence of being, meaning or connection to some higher entity and express that through art.
It’s even said that people who designed churches, pyramids or holy buildings experienced divine inspiration – it could be why they were inspired to build humongous buildings with detail which make you wonder how an earth it was achieved pushing past obsession, mental health and obligation.
This is why I’ve put together some of the films/scenes which affect me each time I watch them. Enjoy the ride!
Beyond the Black Rainbow – The Incident (2010)
The film itself can be difficult to watch with its many clinical psychological-torture scenes, but it’s well executed.
Known as ‘The Incident,’ here we see the antagonist Dr Nyle emerging from a pool of viscid black liquid after an experiment gives him the ability to achieve transcendence. Here lays scenes of a hellish regression where the character dissolves beyond the limitations of his flesh which decomposes from his physical form as he’s forced to delve deeper into his consciousness.
David Bowie’s Black Star Music Video (2015)
Blackstar is a music video film where you can’t help but feel that this was David Bowie’s gift to his audience in the sharing of his last days.
There’s revelations in the sense that dying is portrayed as a cleansing or confirmation that the spirit is an energy form which lives on. Actors/dancers are seen shaking as if their bodies are dying, ridding themselves of tensions. It gives an impression that they’ve been trapped in their physical form and that death is the ultimate freedom from their bodily confinement.
Then there’s a scene with what I refer to as the ‘Angel Walk.’ I actually experienced a similar act when studying tantric yoga. It can be seen as allowing yourself to accept love, touch and affections from others, almost like an initiation as you walk down a valley of touching hands and embracing bodies. A similar version of the ‘Angel Walk,’ is seen in this video but it’s portrayed as an offering.
I’ve watched this video four times and each time I feel as if David Bowie is suggesting that when we’re ready, we will reap the benefits of preparing for death or that as scary as the preparation is, it can also be a huge step in the direction of acceptance. I have mixed feelings when I watch Blackstar as it perturbs me in the same way perhaps Lars Von Triers Melancholia does.
The Strange Colour of Your Bodies Tears (2013)
This movie is a piece of artwork and a bona-fide homage to Italian Giallo cinema. Every inch of this movie screams composition decadence and I love how well the erotica and macabre provocatively merge.
I watched this movie around a year after my first visualisation session with a friend who was into self-hypnosis and had an interest in reaching various astral planes.
In a scene where Walken’s character discovers exactly what happens when dying through a scientific experiment, I gasped in shock because it was similar to what I experienced during my first session. It almost felt like a secret gospel, something known to those who have managed to reach the microcosm of the universe.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
There’s so much to choose from in the Blade Runner sequel as it pulls in all the stops to gift the audience with a truly interactive visual experience.
If I were to choose my favourite scenes which is difficult because as a whole the film is spectacularly sensory, then it would have to be when character K visits the Wallace Corporation’s replicant DNA archive.
The set design is mesmerising, with an amber womb-like aesthetic, a place where you’re harboured and nestled, but also at risk of a volatile downfall.
Although transcendent in a rather unpleasant way, the replicant birth scene is also harrowing in its gruesome exposition by sociopath and CEO Niander Wallace. The elements of water in the scene reflect a post embryonic force, then the surveillance of hovering egg-like devices which circle around the new replicant appear like they’re threatening to assist and probe with further procreation.
Another fantastic scene is where K travels through what is referred to as the ‘Ruins of Las Vegas,’ a radiated wasteland of a forgotten metropolis named Pleasuretown occupied by giant humanoid sculptures. These themes also reflect the tone and style of author Philip K. Dick stories where reality, perception and paranoia are unravelled.
Again, these amber and rich orange tones depict a desolate and desperate craving for humanity in the dusty post-apocalyptic outback. It exposes K to be a character who wants to connect with something or someone which is far more than just the present. There’s a contrast between an obvious lost world with K’s desire and hunt for evolution which is a boundless parallel.
We Are the Flesh (2016)
This film is meant to be about the political climate in Mexico although to me it works well as one about the human condition; the banishing of social barriers, rules, questioning what’s right and wrong along with some desires deemed unethical.
It questions personal boundaries, explores the limitations of sex, passion and different kinds of love in a hellish mirage of obsessive twisted liberation. There are many scenes which take you past your comfort zone and yet throw you into areas of your mind where curiosity and repulsion transmutes to pleasure. Will you feel bad after feeling this IF you let yourself feel good…well that’s up to you.
David Lynch – Eraserhead ‘In Heaven’ (1977)
This film is the basis for any artist, film lover and philosopher of life. The scene reveals a bizarre dream sequence where the Lady in the Radiator (also known as the ‘Hamster-cheeked girl’) appears, taunting the character named Spencer as he drifts from one state to another. The ‘Hamster-cheeked girl’ is a representation of death, it’s key to the song that she sings, ‘In Heaven, everything is fine’ a song that the only hope after the crushing hopelessness seen throughout the rest of the film, is to give in to death.
Nellie the Elephant (1990)
When I was a child, I loved the opening sequence to this animated series. I remember turning the volume up loud with the theme tune blasting from the small television in Mum’s room. With the songs repetition, the animals, the circus and adventures of an elephant leaving the jungle in an attempt to experience the big wide world, I was sucked into Nellie’s journey.
Enter the Void (2009)
Noé punches me in the gut; I struggle not to heave my innards, and retain dignity from my potential spluttering muck, but it’s difficult as this film is heavy.
Enter the Void is a sensory overload which makes you think ‘who needs drugs,’ when you can just watch this movie and reach assaulting highs.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015)
Generally, Spongebob tends to be more trippy than ethereal, but my favourite scene in this movie is when Spongebob and character Plankton travel in a time machine to try and discover who has stolen the secret formula to an underwater fast food joint named The Krusty Krab.
There’s a peculiar dreamy sequence where they travel far into the future and meet Bubbles a Dolphin King who has been minding the galaxy.
The characters drift in and out of reason, it’s slow and trippy, with strange random conversations, the kind you have when you’re high on acid. That’s the beauty of The SpongeBob movie, it succeeds in making the audience feel as if they’re on a trip, with the weird idiosyncrasies and quirks human nature has to offer…right down to Bubbles inadvertent and sometimes uncontrollable dolphin clicking in between dialogue.
Dr Strange (2016)
Known as one of the characters who tends to work more in the background of the Marvel Universe, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the strong spiritual elements in this movie.
Spiralling portals, astral planes and other dimensions are just a few of the mystical intrigues Dr Strange (and the audience) experiences.
This is also the best VFX movie I’ve seen in the last few years and should be seen on the big screen.
Altered States (1980)
The concept of this movie alone reaches the very essence of spirituality and the states of consciousness our minds can reach under particular influences.
It also goes to show that people will always be discovering new methods of searching for their inner being and past lives to find out the meaning of life and whether there’s a beyond.
The Cell (2000)
The Cell is nightmarish decent into a serial-killer’s mind, and actually has a really convincing performance by Jennifer Lopez as she tries to resolve a deadly case.
These hellish surreal moments suck you into an instability that’s just too curious and stunning to leave. Some do argue that this film is more style over substance, but I believe it’s justified by the bizarre and thrilling scenes of an unconscious tormented mind.
As a child I actually found this film quite heavy going because there was so much going on. From what I remember, there wasn’t really a narrative because it was a Disney pet project to give animated sequences to classical music, ranging from the purely symbolic to the narrative. A scene worthwhile watching is Night on Bald Top Mountain by Mussorgsky, which was inspired by tales of the Witches Sabbath on St John’s eve (23rd June).
Melancholia plunged me into a deep depression to the point that I’ve never been able to face the movie since. It makes sense since this is actually part of Lars Von Triers Trilogy of Depression which included movies Antichrist and Nymphomaniac (Vol I and II). The final scene depicts the apocalypse where one character embraces the end of days whilst the other cries in a despair trying to cling onto life. It exposes a torturous dichotomy.
Fellini’s 8 and ½ (1963)
This film is one that truly personifies the lines from Shakespeare’s play ‘As you Like It.’ All the worlds are a stage with men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances. And one man plays many parts.
The film follows Guido Anselmi, a director struggling with his new film project. Confronted with a block that seems not to budge he is constantly pressured by his producer and crew. Every time he hopes for solitude they appear. But as you watch it becomes evident that there’s something more, that this is a film within a film. They talk about things already seen as part of the story, and then fantasies and memories are woven into the tapestry creating something like a biopic yet can’t be.
Fellini then finishes it with a well-known trope in many of his films, clowns. A small cadre of clowns leading the young boy that played Guido’s younger self, play their music as all the players join hands and dance. This is a wonderful film that even now holds up to the tests of time, and is one of the many pieces of wonderful cinema borne from a man that is still revered by lovers of cinema.
The Matrix (1999)
What can be said about this film that hasn’t already been said hundreds of times already in the 19 years it has been available. Even with it’s at times questionable sequels this, has had a place in many people’s collections.
Set in a future where humanity is little more than an energy source for a robotic over-mind, in order to maintain their life, they are allowed to exist as part of a simulation. This is something which even now people wonder about. Out of this a question remains; If you knew the truth could you go back to living a lie? Even when the truth is a cold, brutal nightmare where every day is a fight to survive and the lie is comfortable beds, a la carte menus and fast cars.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
This is one of Kubrick’s and Clark’s masterpieces. The very core of this narrative is the transcendence of humanity through the impact of the Monoliths, and how these blackened menhirs force the evolution of humans by pushing them onward to the next great stepping stone. Taking them through the development of tools and warfare in the prehistory phase, to moving beyond the Moon and to Jupiter until ultimately becoming one with the universe. Dave Bowman’s ascension into being the Starchild, with its assault of colour and hallucinogenic landscapes, takes him to a place beyond space and time. He witnesses his own end and rebirth as something removed from humanity and into something completely other.
Thanks for reading!
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