Movies, books, TV shows… Even those which seem as nothing more than mindless entertainment, if positioned properly within a life-cycle, can leave an indelible mark. Maybe it is not the dictionary definition of experience (every language should have a word equivalent to vicarious, btw), but it is nonetheless something you’ve been through. As with any and all experiences, the effect often depends on how much of yourself you put into the process, but sometimes you simply have no choice.
I believe I would not be who I am today if I haven’t read certain books at a certain point in my life. The same goes for movies. The best examples are probably Star Wars and Star Trek which have shaped the way my imagination works in space. However, when I am tasked with imagining a robot, the first thing that pops up is that very chic guy from the Forbidden Planet.
Think. Which movies freaked you out so much you still shudder when you think of them? (NOTE: I’m not talking about Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo).
1. Stephen King (beyond time)
Long before I even knew what a Stephen King was, I developed an epic distaste for clowns, and I never managed to develop a balloon fancy – something which most kids seem to have had at one point or the other. Sewage and drains have held no appeal for decades due to fear of floating. Needless to say, there is Misery and Kathy Bates who decided to use a sledge hammer and mash Jimmy’s legs. No blood. No gore. And I was physically sick. The fact that both books were disturbing on a whole other level is a matter for a different post.
2. Enemy Mine (1987)
Some years ago Boyfriend Mine and I were discussing 80s and 90s movies and he mentioned Enemy Mine at which point I had an epiphany because I realized that he was talking about one of THE movies.
In this movie, one of the main characters is an alien, which is in itself perfectly normal. Now this alien, who I’d considered a dude, turns out not only not to be a dude but to be pregnant, because it’s “that time”. I think this movie was a major step on my road to realization that being different is cool, that you just need to try and understand and accept those differences.
Jurassic Park paraphrased it nicely in 1993: “Life finds a way”. Then Feyerabend expanded on it: “The only principle that does not inhibit progress is: anything goes”, after which Le Guin pretty much nailed it (as she usually does, the vixen): “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”
3. Waterland (1992)
I’ve had disturbing dreams for years. Sometimes I thought those were caused by repressed memories. Then one day, some years ago, I stumbled upon Waterland on TV. It would seem that it is not very good to watch it when you’re 7 or 8 because it causes serious mental scarring. I’d thought there was something seriously wrong with me. Ok. It’s possible that there is something very wrong with me, but at least I know a part of it was caused by Waterland.
I really don’t want to go into the specifics because to date I prefer not to think about those.
4. Monster (2003)
Back in early 2000s when I watched Monster I decided that I am done with drama, tragedy and “difficult” movies. I decided nothing is worth the misery and anguish, no matter how good or how true it was. I think it took me a month to recuperate from the desolation and hopelessness of the world and “human” beings depicted in this movie. This one really f#$%&d me up.
5. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
I’ve saved this one for the end because it might debunk the tentative claim I have made about not being crazy. I’ve had this dream when I was in high school. It was all cyberpunk-y and totally cool. It was one of those that stick with you because it’s as realistic as it is improbable. And there I am, walking around town and I notice a DVD of something called Ghost in the Shell. Mind you, this was before I was into anime and all things Japanese (now you’re thinking about hentai, aren’t you?). The moment I’ve noticed the cover I knew that was what I’ve dreamt about. It was extra weird. The conviction that I’ve dreamt a movie that someone actually made. Now, I’m a rational person and I’m aware that it is possible that this was the same situation as with the Waterland. But I could not recall ever having seen Ghost in the Shell and the weirdness of that moment, the certainty of that particular déjà vu still disturbs me.
I will, however, like to end this one with a hearty recommendation: I, Daniel Blake. I cannot remember how long has it been since I’ve seen a movie so beautiful and so heartbreakingly painful. A masterpiece.