10 Films That Make You Want To Die
Film is very unique in its ability to make
us feel, this is not to say that music and other forms of art cannot, but film,
when done well, can completely suck us into a world where the director is free
to toy around with our emotions. Alfred Hitchcock once said that (and I am
paraphrasing here) that one day we won’t need cinema or cameras, all the
director will have to do is to push one button to make the audience feel scared
and another to make them feel sad or happy etc. It’s a wonderful thing to go
into a movie and come out feeling exhilarated or overjoyed, however it is much
more memorable and sometimes unnerving experience when we leave a film with
tears running down our face or with feelings of dread and discomfort. These are
not the films that always list as our favorites for this very reason; however
they do provide us with some of the most memorable, emotive viewing experiences
of our lives.
So if you are up for it, in no particular order, here are some wonderfully depressing and uncomfortable films that would make for perfect viewing on any first date.
Dancer in The Dark, Dir. Lars Von Trier - 2000
I probably could have very easily made an
entire list out of the films of Lars Von Trier, few modern directors use
emotion as one of their key elements in storytelling. It is almost as if at
times Von Trier builds his stories and characters around the emotions he wants
to push on you and Dancer in the Dark is no exception. Possibly the saddest
film I have seen in my entire life, it is the only one that has actually ever
made me cry. Dancer in the Dark tells the story of an eastern European woman
named Selma (portrayed brilliantly by Bjork) who has come to America in order
give her son a better life. That is really all I would want to share with you
about it aside from the fact that the film is possibly the strangest and oddly
enough one of the best musicals I have seen. A truly Von Trier-esque film, it
unfolds so gradually at every twist and turn and the musical numbers provide so
much emotion, but not in the way one would expect.
Requiem For a Dream, Dir. Darren Aronofsky - 2000
Darren Aronofky’s infamously stark drug film based
on Huber Selby Junior’s novel is probably one of the more well known or popular
films on the list. For those unaware the film follows several youths and an
elderly woman and their experiences with different drugs both legal and
illicit. For all of its darkness the film is actually also probably the most
fun film on the list. The same chaotic and masterfully shot and edited montages
of the film that give it its unrelenting power and sense of dread also seem to
work as an incredible sensory experience. The score for the film has become
highly celebrated and was even used in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Martyrs, Dir. Pascal Laugier – 2008
Martyrs is the only horror film I have listed and
this is most likely because generally, horror tends to take on a sense of
malicious fun, exhilaration, but all of this is missing from Martys. The film
tells the story of a young girl who escaped from being tortured and her attempt
to rid herself from a strange monster that now haunts her. An incredibly
graphic and hugely shocking film, Martyrs is really not one for the faint of heart.
However what leaves the film to be truly unsettling is the complete contempt that
the film and its characters have for human life, especially women. All of this
is topped off by one of the darkest messages of life and death that horror
cinema has seen in recent years. On a side note, Pascal Laugier is in talks about
refreshing the Hellraiser franchise for all you horror fan readers.
Salo, Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini – 1975
Salo, Or the 120 Days of Sodom is the final
film by one of the most controversial directors in film history, Pier Paolo
Pasolini and his final act in the world of cinema (he was murdered shortly
after the films completion) certainly earns him that title. Based upon the
unfinished shred of a book by Marquis De Sade, Salo is still banned or at least
heavily cut in many countries due to its incredibly sadistic content and Sade-like structure. Like 120 Days of Sodom (the book) the film essentially is
nothing more than a series of transgressive and morally deplorable sexual and
torturous acts shown in between tales delivered by an older female aristocrat.
Where as Sade’s book was set in France around 1715, Pasolini set his film in
Italy in 1944 in order to use the libertine characters as a comment on fascism.
The film slowly disintegrates into more and more extreme acts until the final
scene really does let loose. Salo is so upsetting to watch as the film seems to
be almost mocking you with its destruction of any moral code, leaving us with a
feeling of total disillusionment to our understanding of sexuality and
morality, however briefly.
Kids, Dir. Larry Clark – 1995
The first film by American photographer Larry Clark
is very much a filmic adaptation of his early photography books, Tulsa (1971)
& teenage Lust (1983). The film spends its time with several youths as they
go about their day to day life. However it is Clark’s obsession with the breakdown
of family and domestic life that makes Kids what it is. Strong early
performances from the likes of Rosario Dawson and Chloe Sevigny really helped
to carry this film, however that is not at all to ignore the still rather
shocking dialog or the in your face direction. Kids is painful to watch because
it does feel incredibly real, the dialog is shocking and the situations are too
at times however only because they have been put on film. The movie captures
what slum kids are really like or can be like, as opposed to how we understand kids
of this age are supposed to be represented within cinema.
The Passion of Joan of Arc, Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer – 1928
The only silent film to make the list and
honestly because it is the only silent film that has moved me in such a way.
I’m not saying that it is the only good silent film; however The passion of
Joan of Arc remains to this day to be one of the saddest films ever made. The
film (as its title suggests) is about Joan of Arc and is actually based around
the records of her trial. Arguably, the film contains one of the greatest
performances in cinema history with Renee Jeanne Falconetti as Joan and this
performance is really one of the reasons why it is so hard to watch. However,
Dreyer’s incredibly early understanding of the camera and its abilities can
also be found in the film, especially with his extensive use of close up which
add so much of the pain fond within these images. Dryer overall was hugely
influential to many directors listed here and the passion of Joan of Arc’s
influence can probably be seen most directly in pop culture with Sinead O’Connor’s
video for Nothing Compares 2 U.
Trash Humpers, Dir. Harmony Korine – 2009
Like Von Trier and Larry Clark at least one film by Harmony Korine had to make it onto this list and for me it is his extremely bizarre 2009 flick Trash Humpers. I have only ever sat through this film once and I am still not one hundred percent sure on a coherent plot, basically it follows so very strange looking people as they take part in equally strange acts, one of which is trash humping. Shot on digital video the film has a really authentic home video look which adds to the upset. Now this is nothing new, digital video has been used for such effect as early as Cannibal Holocaust in the 1980s but Trash Humpers really gets me simply because it is so strange and unexplained. I have no idea who these people are, why they are doing what they are doing and most importantly why they look so strange.
Palindromes, Dir. Todd Solondz – 2004
Todd Solondz has made some of the funniest black
comedies I have ever come across and I urge anyone who has never seen one of
his films to stop reading this and do so right now.
If you are still here though, Palindromes is probably one of his darkest and artistically most daring. The film follows a thirteen year old girl named Aviva who has run away from home. Throughout the film she meets many different men, some who treat her well and other not so much. Aviva is played by eight different actresses throughout the film and it really calls into question the stability of a thirteen year old such as Aviva and the fragility of her life. I really don’t want to give too much away on this film so I’ll leave it there. I could have placed any of Todd Solondz’s films on this list as they all carry with them a rather unsettling yet real and at times very funny view of the world, especially families and children. However Palindromes use of multiple players makes it the stand out. Probably the funniest of any feel bad movie I have seen.
Irreversible, Dir. Gasper Noe – 2002
In my opinion one of the most highly underrated
artistic achievements in film within the past decade or so, Irreversible is
also one of the most disorientating films you will ever see. Through the magic
of digital editing the film appears to be one continuous long shot with no
break. Noe’s camera floats about the world often throwing itself to the side of
completely upside down, the opening scene also features a low frequency sound
that can cause vertigo in some people. Noe set out to make a film that was uncomfortable
to watch and he succeeded. The film is essentially about a woman named Alex who
was raped. The rape scene within the film has brought the film some notoriety;
it is an unflinching close proximity scene that lasts for more than ten
minutes. Irreversible also creates an overall dark and sleazy world of
underground sex, perversion and drugs that have become synonymous with Noe. The
film is a crucial part of what is becoming known as the New French Extremity.
Mysterious Skin , Dir. Gregg Araki – 2004
Homo director Gregg Araki was best known for making
some the hippest queer films the cinema has ever seen. Sex, drugs and rock and
roll were critical to his films plots, characters and themes. However in 2004
he released a film based on a book by Scott Heim called Mysterious Skin. The film
has been described as a handbook for pedophilia and that is both very telling
of the film and also an insult to the films artistic credibility. Joseph
Gordon-Levitt gives a brilliant performance within the film as the young male
prostitute who born out of sexual abuse by softball coach. What makes
Mysterious Skin so cringe-worthy however is the way it views the pedophile, especially in comparison to other sexual deviants within the film. This is a
film that really does not condemn pedophilia, however neither does it glorify
it; the film simply shows the repercussions of it. It is a hard film to accept
So if you are ever feeling numb and are worried that you are completely ambivalent to the world, why not one of these to remind you that you can still feel something, even if it is just for a brief moment.
But what do you think? Are there any films that you find truly tragic or that you can revisit?
Let us know in the comments below.