Many experimental films, as interesting as they might be, simply aren’t exactly enjoyable to watch. A single non-conventional element, such as narrative, or cinematography, or use of score, might not completely alter the overall experience, but a couple of them together might oust the film into a very restricted niche, from which it will most likely not emerge. Let’s therefore look at such examples – films which take risks and can be characterised by a daring approach, but do not go as far as to alienate their viewers.
1. Inland Empire (2006)
Believe it or not, but Inland Empire is actually David Lynch’s most recent feature film. And, perhaps alongside Eraserhead, it’s his most surreal creation. Nothing much makes sense right from the beginning, and matters don’t exactly clear up as the narrative progresses – it is, however, a fascinating ride. The less you know about the plot, the better.
2. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
This is one of Teryy Gilliam’s masterpieces, a story about an idiosyncratic journalist and his psychopathic lawyer. It’s a super weird, ultra psychedelic flick that should have felt at home in the 90s.
3. Pi (1998)
Pi is one of Darren Aronofsky’s early creations, but his lack of experience doesn’t show one bit. It tells the story of a mathematician obsessed with finding a formula which explains everything – and, as a result of his quest, begins a gradual descent into madness.
4. The Tree of Life (2011)
One of the newer experimental films which got quite some media attention, thanks in no small part to Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain being cast as the main actors. It tells the story of a family in a very slow-paced, artistic and symbolic manner – I loved it, but I know a lot of people who have uttered less than complimentary words about it.
5. Walking Life (2001)
This is one of my favourites. I feel that Richard Linklater always delivers in terms of characters, dialogues and how easily he integrates deeply complex philosophies in his works. Waking Life stands out, for sure – similar to A Scanner, Darkly, it’s an animated film, but the visual style is very… unique, I’ll put it that way. As is the narrative, exploring the subconscious, dreams, and everything in-between.
6. Russian Ark (2002)
In this one, the main character ventures through the Hermitage Museum, encountering a series of historical figures along the way. Yes, the premise sounds very similar to the one in Midnight in Paris, but the execution is far more on the experimental side.