Ever get done watching a movie and wonder what the hell it was all about? Well, here are 10 of them that will leave you feeling exactly that. Some people love it. Some people hate it. And for me, it depends on which exact elements remain confusing about the movie. If it’s something I can piece together after considering a twist of sorts, it doesn’t ruin the film for me. If it’s the result of lazy writing/directing/filmmaking, then I want my life back.
1. Southland Tales
Wow. And people thought Richard Kelly’s debut film, Donnie Darko, was difficult to understand? Good luck with this one. From what I can figure out, it’s a modern take on the Book of Revelations. But with lots of confusing time travel. And porn stars. And assasins. And even a nice little musical interlude with JT and a chorus line of blondes on skee ball machines. This one’s worth a watch for the “WTF” factor alone. You can tell Kelly had some vision of genius inside that crazy lil’ head of his. What resulted, though, is one of the weirdest things ever committed to celluloid. Almost like a David Lynch flick, if Lynch favored the absurd over the abstract.
Also about time travel, but the similarities between this and the above are purely coincidental. Primer was written by a NASA scientist and the dialogue unfolds as such. Though this may be the most realistic, scientific take on time travel in (fiction) film form, it’s also one of the most confusing. By the time you wrap your head around the Loop Theory (which is what I’m calling it, I’m not sure if that’s what it’s really called), you’ll have missed the part where Guy 1 was trying to best Guy2 by cutting past Guy 2 out of the future, etc etc. Then someone dies, and just when you think you have the paradox of time travel all figured out, you figure out there was a whole ‘nother plotline you should have been paying attention to. Geez.
3. Mulholland Drive
Speaking of David Lynch! I hate this movie. Absolutely hate it. And not because I “don’t understand it.” Well, I don’t. Not entirely. Just like anything else David Lynch has ever done (this LEGO version of “Twin Peaks” pretty much encapsulates my understanding of “Twin Peaks”), but this one for some reason was much more critically-lauded, and as a result, I just felt bad about myself for not seeing an ounce of greatness in it. Yeah, okay, it does have one of the single scariest scenes in cinema history – but that’s the rare occurence of directorial genius in the movie. The identity twist in the end will surely leave you wondering why the hell you already invested over an hour in the film, and the moment at which the dream ends and the reality begins, you’ll probably want send your DVD on a nice little vacation into the fireplace.
I dig Memento. Christopher Nolan is a great director. But this is one I just barely “get”, even after a third or fourth viewing. The gimmick here, of course, is that the movie is told backward, with the end coming at the beginning and the “beginning” at the end. Through this, we understand why the characters take the course(s) of action that they do. It’s a great tool when successfully employed, and I think it is here. That still doesn’t make the experience any less confusing, though. By the time I left the theater after first viewing it, I thought I was the one with a memory loss condition.
What’s a list without a mention of Jean-Luc Godard? In what he describes as partly an homage to the gangster film, particularl Bonnie and Clyde, Godard quite aimlessly depicts a romance between a gangster wannabe and a charming French girl. And then afforementioned wannabe commits himself a crime! Oh snap! Afterward, a lot of confusing stuff happens. Some people die. There are a lot of chases through Paris. Then a “sucks to be you” ending just pops up out of nowhere. Add up all these things, and of course it’s something you’re required to watch in critical film analysis classes.
This one probably makes the most sense out of any of those on this list, but the twist is just so damn impactful. You have to go back and re-envision the whole damn movie! So what should have been a straight-forward narrative becomes all convaluted when you have to re-think who did what to do, because you didn’t hear the story truthfully on the first go-around. The idea is that the movie makes a little more sense given this twist, but in my mind, it just made it a whole helluva lot more exhausting, like watching two movies at once. That’s not necessarily bad – it’s a good film. But when the audience has to put together a puzzle, disassemble it then put it all back together in a new arrangement, I consider it to be confusing.
7. Vanilla Sky
At some point, I just stopped trying in this movie. It’s a dream! It’s not a dream! These people are having sex! Psyche! I just kinda closed my eyes and listened to Radiohead. Lots of Radiohead. While everyone else asked themselves if Stanley Kubrick died a genius or a madman. To which I propose, though I think he’s a bit overrated: can’t it be both?
8. The Return (Russian flick, not Sarah Michelle Gellar)
This one is supremely confusing because so much of the story is just left up to interpretation. What you would think would be “key” plot points are never revealed. So the father is absent, then he’s just there. Then he takes his kids on a fishing trip. Except he doesn’t really. Probably. Then they travel all the way out to some nowhere island. Just at the moment where all those unclarified things look to come into focus, when we find out the goal of this trip is to find a locked chest and the father is about to reveal everything, something awful happens and we never learn anything. The end. The film felt suspiciously like a metaphor for adolescence. And foreign films that serve as metaphors for adolescence are, by default, confusing as hell.
9. No Country For Old Men
I left the theater for this one just asking everyone “what the hell…seriously, what the hell?” Fanboys of this movie like to tell everyone that it makes perfect sense and anyone left confused by the last 20 minutes just doesn’t understand great film. My response? Shut the hell up. I’m sure you don’t “get it” anymore than anyone else. I don’t even know if Tommy Lee Jones gets what he was saying in that final scene. And the way key moments occur completely off-screen (namely, deaths of important characters), you just feel left in the dark after seeing this.
10. Suicide Club
The main question: why the hell are all these teenage girls committing mass suicide? Jumping in front of subway trains and such? What could possibly be driving them to do these horrible things? After two hours of asking these questions and attempting to unravel this mystery, we arrive at this conclusion: we have no idea why the hell they are doing it. But they are. And that kinda sucks, right? Yup. But not as much as investing two hours and having no results to show for it.