The medium of film has long been able to represent ideas that are impossible to see in real life. Whether it’s multiple personalities, the concept of time travel, or the high of illicit drug use, movies have been able to give an audience a look into a world that they would not otherwise be privy to. Through the use of special effects, or just plain artistic license, filmmakers can make the intangible tangible. If a movie can make an audience stop and think, even if it is just for a moment, about the oddities of the psychological world around us, then it could be considered a mindbender movie. For the most part, these films are best described as movies that require a second viewing immediately after the credits roll the first time. This week’s films examine two such movies that push the envelope of human understanding and cause us to rethink reality.
Length: 139 minutes / 2.32 hours
Every once in a while, you come across a film that requires an immediate second viewing. These films have such a shocking twist ending that you can’t help but wonder if the signs were there the whole time. One such film for me was Memento (2000). As the film progressed, the monochrome and color segments didn’t make too much sense together, but at the end, when they finally meet, everything came together and formed a cohesive narrative. As such, once the “trick” was figured out, a second viewing added a whole new level of depth to the film. Fight Club is a very similar film in this respect because of the representation of what goes on in a character’s mind. With Memento, it was short-term memory loss, but with Fight Club, the challenge of figuring out what’s real and what’s not ends up needing a second viewing to catch everything.
What would you do if you found yourself in a dead-end job, unable to sleep, and homeless due to a freak gas leak? Well, if you’re the Narrator of Fight Club (Edward Norton), you’d make friends with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a soap salesman who has a rich and colorful history as varied as the jobs he’s held. When they move to live in an abandoned house, things start getting out of hand. In order to vent out all the pent up rage of being stuck in a mundane existence, the Narrator and Tyler start Fight Club, an underground battle arena. Continuing to grow upon word-of-mouth, the Fight Club becomes something much larger, and much more resembling a terrorist organization. Now, what if you were to find out that Tyler wasn’t who you thought he was? In the mindbending ending to Fight Club, the frightening reality of the mind’s power is fully brought to light.
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours
For some reason, many “mindbender” films end up being considered cult classics. This is probably due to a number of factors. First is the aforementioned “immediate second viewing”, which forces audiences to really focus on the movie, instead of just watching for entertainment. Secondly, the imagery used in these films can be seen as more artistic than a normal movie, thus spreading in popularity through a more viral nature, even if it was critically panned. While Fight Club definitely fits in the cult category, other cult classic mindbenders would include Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Inception (2010). The visual aspects of these films certainly help to tell a story that’s complex and intricate. For Donnie Darko, and its “time travel” undertones, the visual feel of the film, as well as its ideas and themes, helped to create a cult classic mindbender.
Donnie Darko (portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal) is your average 1980’s teenager. Well, average except for a few abnormalities. First of all, he sees visions of a large and creepy rabbit. Secondly, he narrowly missed being killed by an errant jumbo jet engine crashing into his bedroom. Also, he knows when the world will end. Perhaps due to these abnormalities, Donnie commits some pretty impressive crimes that bring the quiet suburbia into an uproar. At first glance, Donnie Darko seems like an ordinary teenage angst film, but under the surface lies an intriguing science fiction. “Philosophy of Time Travel” is the name of the book given to Donnie that does a pretty good job of explaining the intricacies of the impossible. By the end of the film, the world hasn’t ended, but time has traveled full circle to Donnie’s demise.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 marvelous mindbenders