Tired after a long day of peacefully protesting? Or maybe you’ve embraced militant civil disobedience and want to take off your black mask, lean back, unwind and watch something other than “V for Vendetta”? Whether you’re a member of Antifa, a reader in a communist book club, a straight-up anarchist or just in need of an obscure film suggestion, here’s a list of candidates for your next movie night that will make you laugh, cry and/or embrace the crushing weight of existence.
The impulses that drive Antifa are nothing new. In fact, the sense of rebellion under a corrupt system might be one of the oldest and longest-lasting drives in human nature, seen from Socrates to CalExit-ers or Texit-ers. What stories could best complement this impulse for freedom and autonomy so as to avoid becoming a leftist echo chamber? Or a rightist echo chamber, for that matter? These films make us look at our echoes with a smile or quizzical look, then slightly disturbed grimace.
The stories in these films do not simply represent our political climate but instead reflect the mental and emotional processes of the artists undergoing times of political, social and technological revolution. They explore our internal state of being, our most innocent hopes and our steepest depressions.
‘Life of Brian’
The Monty Python crew is able to offend both sides of the social spectrum, the orthodox and the rebel-rousers. The film tells a story about an insecure man named Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) living in Jerusalem at the time of Christ who is assumed to be a messiah, regardless of how much he disagrees with the imposed title. The Sanhedrin, the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front are all equally ridiculous in this 1979 comedy. Brian’s trite yet wise words ring out when pinned between corrupt systems and populist movements: “Think for yourselves!”
In Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 sci-fi film, the last two scientists studying the mysterious planet Solaris and its conscious oceans experience hallucinations and stop communicating with the scientists back on Earth. A psychologist must go to the space station in order to determine whether the planet’s effect on the scientists warrants further study or its destruction.
Where “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a look into outer space, “Solaris” is an exploration of inner space. Tarkovsky said the story “presents a problem that is close to (him): the problem of overcoming, of convictions, of moral transformation on the path of struggle within the limits of one’s own destiny.” The film is dense, filled with an eerie quiet that gives plenty of time and space for your own inner self to interact with the images and narrative. “Solaris” is a disquieting example of the relation between the development of the outer alongside that of the inner.
Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is an inspiring role model for anyone subscribed to any ideology. A screenwriter blacklisted for being a suspected communist, Trumbo fought the Red Scare censorship by writing screenplays under pseudonyms, from trashy B flicks to the Academy Award winner “Roman Holiday.” While he had power as a professional storyteller and wealth from commercial success, he was a working man. He did not raise a strike or a revolt, but created, writing a prolific amount of screenplays without claiming credit.
Stanley Kubrick’s horror film “The Shining” explores the inner mind of a man and his family as they tend to an empty hotel problematically constructed on a Native American burial site.
The film explores the anxieties coming from the influence of power, and thus a running theme is “The White Man’s Burden,” as Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) so ominously complains about to a demon bartender. Jack’s patriarchal authoritarianism bubbles to the surface over the time spent in the hotel, like the genocidal architects of the hotel, evolving into a maniacal father and husband. It poses the question: Why should anyone look up to you as an authority if you can’t sit with yourself for a couple of months (or for a two and a half hour film)?
“The Shining” is best seen alongside the documentary “Room 237,” which analyzes the more esoteric and implicit aspects of the films. In addition to that, the recent documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune” will serve as a good primer to the acid trip that is “The Holy Mountain.”
‘The Holy Mountain’
John Lennon funded this 1973 film after seeing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s previous feature, “El Topo,” claiming it was the best movie he had ever seen. Rife with hippie, religious and occult symbolism, “The Holy Mountain” tells the story of a group of poor thieves and rich CEOs attempting to overtake and replace the Immortals atop the summit of the Holy Mountain. In order to do so, they undergo a transformative process using fables, various forms of meditation and drugs. What’s a revolution without a little psychedelia?
Like several of the other films in this list, what this (loose) narrative depicts is the refinement and construction of the psyche, most aptly encapsulated by the Alchemist (Alejandro Jodorowsky): “You are excrement. You can change yourself into gold.”
That is not to call all of us excrement, but to question what is the most revolutionary effect we can cause in the world: to change others or to change ourselves?
Contact Bryan Nashed at [email protected].