"There is something beautiful in reveling in sadness.
The proof is how beautiful sad songs can be.
I don’t think being sad is to be avoided.
It’s apathy and boredom you want to avoid.
But feeling anything is good, I think.” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt
There’s something attractive about depressing films and some pleasure in being sad. The films that really have an impact on you are the ones that take you beyond sadness & happiness and leave you in an unexplainable limbo. A limbo that confuses your emotional state – confuses happiness and sadness – you’ll never really know the difference. You’re hanging somewhere in the middle of both. Often we drag ourselves into this limbo & once you’re in such a state of mind, it’s a free-fall, and the only person that can save you is yourself. We dread depression but often, we willingly fall into it. Here’s our list of disturbingly beautiful films.
Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. is the story of a forgotten silent star, Norma Desmond, living away from the limelight in an old fashioned house, watching her old films and planning a comeback, in her words a ‘return’. "It’s a return, a return to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen." In her attempts to make a return to the silver screen, Desmond encounters a broke writer and gives him shelter in her house. Their first interaction is classic.
“You used to be big,” he says. Norma responds, "I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”
The tragedy of the film lay in the fact that Desmond refuses to accept that she has aged. "The stars are ageless, aren’t they?", "We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!", Desmond says, remembering her heydays.
Requiem For A Dream
Darren Aronofsky chronicles the lives of three people devastated by drug addiction. After watching the film you’re sure to say this to yourself, ‘ugh! why did I watch this film at all?’ There is no hope in the film and every single moment in the film is full of misery.
In an unending quest to feed their addiction, the three main characters of the film have to face electro-shock therapy, have their arm amputated out due to excessive intravenous drug use and sell their body for heroin. The moral of the story is simple: Never do drugs. The film ends with all the characters curling into a fetal position, showing the helplessness and hopelessness of their situation.
A Clockwork Orange
As you watch A Clockwork Orange, you will be reminded that fundamentally we are animals with animal desires. The film is an in-your-face, satire of the dystopian future. The film oozes with merciless violence. Alex(Malcolm McDowell), the anti-hero, is fearless, reckless and evil to the core. He takes pleasure in indulging in "ultra-violence" (a heightened form of violence), with his droogs (a Russian slang for friend). Alex is charming in a violent way, so much so that at a certain point in the film, the viewer begins to enjoy watching him and forgets that he’s a horrible person.
After committing murder, Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison & here he is chosen as an experimental subject to be part of an aversion therapy or the Ludivico technique. The process involves drugging the subject, strapping him to a chair, propping his eyelids open, and forcing him to watch images of violence. Alex realizes that the background score of the film is by his favorite composer; Ludwig van Beethoven. The treatment works and destroys Alex’s capacity to do the things he reveled in the most, i.e. ultra-violence. On the contrary, he falls ill at the very thought of ultra-violence and feels repelled by the sounds of the composer he once loved the most. The film has an open-ended conclusion, that will leave you thinking for hours together, if not days.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a convicted criminal who fakes mental illness and gets transferred from the local prison to the mental institution. He does this because he believes the conditions in an asylum will be significantly easier to deal with rather than the rough stay in prison.
Compared to his fellow patients, McMurphy is free-spirited and begins to turn the institution upside-down. Whilst this film is packed with sufficient humor, it has an expected ending. In the end, McMurphy, does not escape. After being lobotomized he is confined to the mocking walls of the asylum, for a lifetime.
The Bicycle Thieves
In the post-war economic depression, our hero, Antonio Ricci, finds it hard to fend for himself and his wife and two kids. He is desperate for work and somehow finds a job that will need him to hang posters. The only condition put by the employers is this, "No bicycle, no job." His wife Maria pawns their bedsheets in order buy a bicycle.
After facing many hardships, and falling victim to a series of unfortunate events, Antonio loses his bicycle and thus his job. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the film sees him sitting outside a packed football stadium and watching hundreds of parked bicycles. To add insult to injury, a fleet of bicycles mockingly speed past him. The film ends with Antonia and his son, walking through a crowd, holding hands, both in tears.
These are definitely not the kind of films that you watch when you’re having a bad day. But these are the kinds that jolt us back to reality and make us realize that sadness is as much a part of life as as joy. Although depressing, these films are beautifully crafted and are considered as classics. They definitely deserve an entry in your bucket list. If you feel we missed a film in our list, please feel free to leave your thoughts in our comment box.