It can be hair raising talk about why we're here, and what does it all mean. An existential movie is one that deals with a world and/or a life that is devoid of any preordained meaning, rules, or justice. It often deals with a confusing struggle to find personal meaning in an absurd world that presents no trace of it on its own. These are movies where we are forced to look at life and see that we have a choice to embrace truth and make our own choices according to our own conscious free will, or perhaps take the easier route and let the establishment of our society around us dictate our brief existence for us. I've picked some of my favorite movies that showed many explorations and ideas I had when viewing them.
Happiness and sadness are completely random and can happen when you least expect them to. Charlie Chaplin showed how to make the most of the times you had now and not getting bogged down by the nature of normality. This was one of the oldest films I've seen when I was a child, sitting in the living room with my sister and father watching the strangeness and laughter of the acclaimed mustache man waving his gestures and then later I understood why he was doing that. He was not letting the bad times get to him, but of course, it would soon catch up to him. Just like how time does to all of us when we're not paying attention.
Before Ryan Gosling took the wheel in Drive, there was Walter Hill's version. This film takes picks up the minimalist torch left by Melville and adds the cinematic touch of 70’s action. The world is spare, empty, and alienating (clearly a large influence on Michael Mann’s later work). It is a world without meaning except that which The Driver has created for himself. What would I become in a world so fessed up by people who would later treat me badly in life? I would end up giving them the same treatment.
Fun fact: Steve McQueen was originally intended to play the main role until Ryan O'Neal surprised the director was his slick moves, and driving abilities, unlike Steve who is good with motorcycles.
This would go on to scare the shit out of me when I was thirteen, spending an evening at a friend's house and would go on as a puzzle to solve; an absolutely absurd and futile universe is his dark voyage into the self and into the savagery of man. While exciting and daring to transform into someone I was not, I would turn into someone I didn't know about and had no intention to, yet I thought I was living a double life. It was horror...
The Thin Red Line
Whether you know Terrence Malick or not, this movie is to be experienced and allowed to flow over you more than simply being viewed, and the flow in this case, will be full of existential questioning about man, nature, who we are, and how we fit into this nature. I'm not a religious man, but what I got out of it was that it was the study of theology using the Pacific Theater as a vehicle. The people around us are amused by something and throwing our pride and arrogance around like we own nature, and then there are those who want to make everything better for everyone and everything by sacrificing themselves. This is one of my personal favorites that has stuck with me for years.
No Country for Old Men
Death and the idea of chance loom large over this bleak Texas landscape and surprisingly, I'm here seeing it. More or less. Anything could happen and there is only the inevitable that live here around me and justice is either harden with corruption based on the past generation, or long gone and we haven't noticed it.
What are some movies that made you question the role of existence?