For most people, movies are an ideal form of escapism. A place you can go to when the world becomes too suffocating or cruel. And for most people, the ideal place to escape is a place that is brighter and sunnier than the world we are normally used to. A place that is a more pastel version of the black and white world they live in everyday.
But what happens when the world you run to for a sense of comfort and light becomes even darker than your real world? Here are five movies so devastatingly hopeless that after watching them, you may need some Prozac. Be forewarned, this stuff gets pretty heavy.
House of Sand and Fog
There is always one movie that seems to inspire every list I do, and in this case, this is that film. I sat down to watch this film knowing only that Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley were in it, and that was all I needed to know, as far as I was concerned. I was very wrong, though. This movie piles devastation on top of tragedy on top of sadness. It is like a buffet of depression, and everytime you think you are full, they pile more on and use your tears as gravy.
The story is a simple one. Jennifer Connelly gets evicted out of her San Francisco house after having failed to pay some taxes. She believes the issue has been worked out, but in the meantime, her house has been auctioned off. Ben Kingsley, who plays a former Colonel in the Iranian Military, moves in to the house with his wife and son. Connelly catches wind of this, and spirals down pretty fast.
No mater what I tell you, you will not be prepared for the hopelessness that pours out of this film.
What is interesting here is that you can almost look at this movie and consider it the unofficial sequel to another hopeless film I have talked about countless times, Requiem For A Dream. Before you think I am crazy, hear me out (I ask that of you guys quite a bit, now that I think of it). Now assume everyone in Requiem has died except the Jennifer Connelly character. Assume her last little ‘ass to ass’ moment scarred her and made her kick the drug.
But no one else from that film did, proverbially, so they died. Now imagine that she moved to San Francisco to start a new life. Somewhere, in between all this, she got married, but life happened, and he walked out on her. Now we are cauight up to the beginning of this film. An ex-addict, living alone, who has nothing left. So when she loses the house, that is it. The final straw.
When I fell in love with her in Labyrinth, I had no idea how dark a road she would eventually choose.
I will not ruin this movie for you, so fret not. I am dancing around what actually happens on purpose. And that is out of respect for those of you who will feel compelled to see this film. And the performances are breathtaking. But, please, be careful. You know I write some messed up articles, so if I am warning you, then this is serious.
And even if you read this and think you have some idea where it will all end, you don’t. This is nihilism at its most extreme.
To put it in perspective, the only movie I consider to be more hopeless than this one is A Serbian Film, and I would not recommend that film to my worst enemy.
I love Terry Gilliam. Sometimes, people see a director they really like on one of my lists and think I am commenting against that director, and that is not the case. Brazil is a beautiful film. Brazil is a strange film. And Brazil is a hopeless film. When I first saw in childhood, one thing stood out to me: When Mona from Who’s The Boss got her facelift:
This was way ahead of its time.
But then, when I got older, besides the amazing cast, it was that ending that stood out to me, and still does.
This is Robert DeNiro back when he played more characters than just himself.
Dystopian societies where the average man is crushed under the foot of the emotionally and physically controlling oppressor is nothing new, but it is done so stylistically here it feels like something brand new. And considering when it came out, visually speaking, it very much was something brand new and never before seen.
I think what did it for me in this movie was (Spoiler Alert) the casting of Michael Palin as the torturer at the end of the film. The one who finally breaks the main character. I was always so used to Michael Palin as a one of the merry Monty Python guys, so to see him take that turn was powerful stuff.
This also showed me just show awesome and multi-layered Michael Palin was.
Now some people may feel the urge to take to the threads and say it is not the film itself that is hopeless, but the ending, therefore Brazil has no place on this list. To them I would say, the ending makes everything that came before it futile, therefore, the entire film preceding the end is hopeless as well.
Unlike The House of Sand and Fog, though, this is one journey that may be hopeless, but is well worth taking.
I found out about this movie, and told myself I wouldn’t watch it. I told myself nothing would bring me to watch a movie that featured (supposed) unsimulated sex between Willem Dafoe and anyone. I also know that director Lars Von Trier likes to make movies that upset people, and he likes to say things that piss people off, so I was approaching this film with disdain, but then it happened. It just happened.
I watched it.
And while some of the visuals were truly awe-inspiring:
The movie looks like how a beautiful, bad dream feels.
There are also a good number of shots in the film that cannot be unseen:
There were points in this film where my eyeballs screamed at me.
So what is it about? A man (Willem Dafoe) and his wife ( Charlott Gainsbourg) experience the tragic death of their child (while they are having sex, the baby crawls out of a window) and they retreat to a cabin in the woods where Dafoe, who is a psychiatrist, plans to treat his wife and help them both cope with the loss.
Cue a lot of sex, screaming, and weeping.
And then the dark stuff starts. I hope you like symbolism, because this film tosses it at you in buckets. Long story short, the wife slowly descends into madness, and some of the things she does are things you really would have thought you would never see in your whole life. And again, you cannot unsee this stuff.
Don’t let the pretty shots fool you, there are genital mutilations in this film.
My suggestion to you, when she smashes Dafoe’s junk with the log, turn off the movie. Because it only gets worse.
Yes, it gets worse. Much worse. And by the time it ends, the final shot of the film will sit with you long after you see it.