Category Archives: Top 10 Disturbing Films

The Stoning of Soraya M.-2008

The Stoning of Soraya M.-2008

Director-Cyrus Nowrasteh

Starring-Shohreh Aghdashloo

Top 10 Disturbing Films-#2

Reviewed February 18, 2017

Grade: A

The Stoning of Soraya M. is a brutal film, and one of the most disturbing films that I have ever seen. I have viewed the film a total of two times and that is enough for me. The terrifying aspect of the film is that the story is true and the events depicted not only have happened to the woman featured, but happen to women day in and day out in certain cultures. The film is a frightening reminder of the atrocities of human suffering.

The film is an American Persian language film made in 2008. Academy Award nominee, Shohreh Aghdashloo, stars as a woman living in a remote village in Iran- the time period is 1986. Interestingly, the film begins following the events that conclude the story and works in reverse. A reporter who has car trouble and is lost in the village is taken by the aunt of Soraya (Aghdashloo) who must tell the journalist the painful story of a tragedy that befell poor Soraya the day before. Soraya was brutally stoned to death, wrongfully accused of adultery, and the journalist wisely records the aunt’s tale with his tape recorder. The journalist must then escape the village alive in order for Soraya’s story to be told to the masses.

From this point the film transfers to several days earlier. Soraya’s abusive husband, Ali, wishes to divorce Soraya so that he can marry a fourteen year old girl from the village. When she refuses, Ali uses manipulation and blackmail to turn many in the village against Soraya, including her two teenage sons. Ali convinces everyone that Soraya has been unfaithful to him with a widower who Soraya innocently works for. Ali is then granted his divorce and Soraya is sentenced to be stoned, as an example, in front of the entire village. The message is clear- women are not equal to men and are not permitted to do the things that men can.

Throughout the film we get to know Soraya and she does have her loyal female friends and supporters. Aghdashloo portrays Soraya with gusto and bravery and the fact that we care for the character so much makes the inevitable stoning sequence heartbreaking and painful to watch.

When Soraya is chained to a short pole and buried up to her neck so that she cannot move, the scene of her victimization is almost unbearable to watch. Ali and her sons are the first to cast the stones that strike her square in the head. Director, Nowrasteh provides the stoning sequence with a dull, muted sound so that we almost experience the thuds of the rocks from Soraya’s perspective, making the scene all the more chilling. The scene also goes on for seemingly an eternity as it takes a long time for Soraya to succumb to her many wounds. Needless to say, she is a bloody mess and unrecognizable. This scene is not for the squeamish.

How disheartening to know that experiences like Soraya’s still occur to this day in Iran and many other countries and there is not much that is done to help. The Stoning of Soraya M. is based on a 1990 book, Le Femme Lapidee, written by Freidoune Sahebjam, who appears in the film as the journalist. The book has been banned in Iran.

The Stoning of Soraya M. is one of the most disturbing films that I have ever seen and as much as the message is tragic and painful, I never want to see this film again. The pain rings too real and the thought fills me with sadness.

Dogtooth-2009

Dogtooth-2009

Director-Giorgos Lanthimos

Starring-Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley

Top 10 Disturbing Films-#9

70119657

Reviewed February 11, 2011

Grade: A-

Dogtooth is a Greek drama nominated for the 2010 Best Foreign film academy award. The film is not for the weak at heart and is most bizarre and disturbing- troubling even. But upon digestion afterwards, I realized how much I appreciated its creativity.

It tells the story of three siblings who are homeschooled and shut out from the rest of the world by their overprotective parents. The teenage kids are curious, damaged, and sad. They know no other world besides the one their parents create for them. Certain words mean certain things to them- a language of their own. It challenges the art of parental control as the kids curiosity builds and builds.

The movie itself is very difficult to follow (non-linear) yet is mesmerizing and perverse. Warning: Some subject matters can be hard to take for some (incest, cruelty to animals, full frontal nudity).I thought it was a fascinating and bravely made film.

Irreversible-2002

Irreversible-2002

Director-Gaspar Noe

Starring-Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel

Top 10 Disturbing Films-#4

60026141

Reviewed February 7, 2016

Grade: C+

As I ponder my review of Irreversible,  a 2002 French thriller and “art film”, I am attempting (as I always do) to look at the film critically, from a story and a technical standpoint, as well as a myriad of other aspects that make up a film. This is admittedly a toughie. On the surface I despised the film wholeheartedly (more on that later), but from a critical standpoint, I found characteristics to admire and give credit to. One thing is for certain- I never want to see this film again.

The story is told non-linear style and, in fact, begins at the conclusion of the story and works backwards, which I credit the film for, giving it a unique storytelling experience, cleverly done. Two Parisian friends, Marcus and Pierre, go on a rampage after Marcus’s girlfriend is brutally raped and beaten. In panic mode, they learn the name of the attacker (Le Tenia) and go to a gay BDSM club aptly named “The Rectum”, a place the attacker apparently frequents, where they fervently search for him all the while beating club-goers and causing havoc.

Since the story is told in reverse, the audience is initially in a state of confusion at the events transpiring, and the jagged, shaky camera work, a very creative technique, only adds to the chaos. We only know that two maniacs are running rampant, destroying everything in their path. Slowly, we realize what their motivation is as we work backwards. We are introduced to Alex, a beautiful young woman- in the early stages of pregnancy, who is Marcus’s steady, but used to date Pierre. They are all very good friends. We see the romance between Marcus and Alex, and, working even further backwards, we see Alex sitting alone in a park, reading a novel, and enjoying a bright, pleasant day in the park. This peaceful closing scene contrasts drastically with the rest of the dark film. The film then becomes a flashing, frenetic, black and white experience, which I do not understand.

The film is quite bizarre and intensely brutal. The rape of Alex in a dark, gloomy underpass is one of the most intense and disturbing scenes I have ever witnessed in film, and at one point I needed to leave the room briefly. The scene is ten minutes in length and Alex is anally raped and then beaten into a comatose state. It is a sickening scene and we witness her pain, misery, and humiliation first hand.

When Pierre and Marcus avenge her rape on who they think is Le Tenia, the scene is also extremely brutal. After (supposed) Le Tenia is captured by them, he attempts to rape Marcus, and Pierre grabs a fire extinguisher and bashes the victim to death as the face is repeatedly destroyed in full detail. It is a tough scene to watch.

I question the motivations of the director wholeheartedly and wonder if his intentions were to story-tell, or simply make as gruesome and shocking a film as possible. I have read that when the film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, many people walked out of the auditorium in disgust- I can see why. Irreversible is severely homophobic, with repeated gay slurs being used throughout the gay club scenes and is also anti- Asian as evidenced by Pierre’s and Marcus’s racial slurs directed at a taxi driver.

The motivations of the character of Le Tenia make no sense to me as it is revealed he is a gay man. Why a gay man would brutally rape a female is unclear to me. This, combined with the extreme brutality, anti gay, anti minority, and anti women, render the film rather pointless from a story perspective.

My assumption after processing the film is that the director wants us to sympathize with nobody in the film, except Alex. Pierre, Marcus, certainly Le Tenia are all hateful characters. It is interesting how, at first, since the beginning is the end, the motivations of the characters are unclear and confused.

My admiration of Irreversible comes solely from the unique camera work, the clever pacing of the film in the form of backwards chapters, and the frenetic style of the opening work, however the homophobia, racism, and brutality left me cold and I could not shake the feeling that this film is shocking for the sake of being shocking, and one that I ultimately cannot applaud.

Boys Don’t Cry-1999

Boys Don’t Cry-1999

Director-Kimberly Peirce

Starring-Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny

Top 100 Films-#73     Top 10 Disturbing Films-#10

27422770

Reviewed February 8, 2017

Grade: A

Boys Don’t Cry is a fitting tribute to real-life figure Brandon Teena, a transgender man from Nebraska, who adopts a male identity and attempts to find love with Lana, played by Chloe Sevigny. Brandon is played by Hilary Swank. Sadly, Brandon was brutally raped and murdered at the hands of some local men- a fact that the film does not gloss over. Boys Don’t Cry is a heartbreaking and tragic film that will disturb some with its shocking and violent content- sadly it is a true story. Swank deservedly walked away with the Best Actress Oscar statuette.

Set in working class Nebraska and right smack in the midst of the heartland, Brandon has the cards stacked against him from the start. Not exactly the most open minded of areas, the film also sets a working class environment for Brandon as most of his friends are poor factory or bar workers. Born as Teena Brandon and female, Brandon (Swank) is a drifter and in trouble with the law for various unpaid tickets. He befriends ex-convicts John and Tom and becomes part of their crowd, falling in love with Lana- they are all unaware of Brandon being a female. When Brandon’s secret is revealed, Lana is accepting and the pair decide to run away together, but Tom and John decide to murder Brandon.

Swank’s portrayal of Brandon is brilliant and believable and very few actresses could successfully pull this off. Swank has angular, androgynous features to begin with, but her drastic physical transformation is jaw dropping. Having closed cropped hair and a male swagger, Swank immerses herself in the role, so much so, that as I watched the film I completely forgot that Brandon was not physically male. Her physical transformation is not the sole reason for the fantastic performance though- Swank is emotionally there in the role and in a heartbreaking scene, after being beaten and raped, is treated poorly by a sheriff handling the accusations- just when Brandon could use an understanding ear.

What a cold world it can be for someone who is different from most others as Boys Don’t Cry reveals in brutal, honest fashion. Anyone who knows the true story of Brandon Teena, knows he led a painful, tragic life, but was also filled with life and love- mainly for Lana. Worth mentioning is Sevigny’s performance as Lana- in love with the person that was Brandon, not so much the gender. Sevigny plays Lana as supportive, confused, and loving.

Director, Kimberly Peirce, became obsessed with the real-life case and does a fantastic job at tackling the film in a true, compelling way. To say nothing of the writing and the acting, Peirce also successfully uses a hand-held camera during Brandon’s strip scene and a surreal, muted light to portray the gloomy mid-west and the cold, hard lives that most of the characters lived. Impressively, Peirce accomplished all of this on a shoe-string budget, and took a wealth of inspiration from independent film legend John Cassavetes, who proved that gorgeous films can be made for very little money.

Many scenes take place in bars as Lana, a devoted karaoke singer, croons one tune after another, the highlight being Restless Heart’s 1988 country hit, “The Bluest Eyes in Texas”, which Lana sings in Brandon’s presence. The use of somber or sad songs gives the film as tragic soundtrack. Famed film critic, Roger Ebert, described Boys Don’t Cry as “Romeo and Juliet set in a Nebraska trailer park”.

Boys Don’t Cry is an enormous victory in film for the LGBT community and, along with Brokeback Mountain, is a perfect double-feature, as both are similar films, only one featuring males, the other females. Both are tragic, bleak, and all too real.

A Clockwork Orange-1971

A Clockwork Orange-1971

Director-Stanley Kubrick

Starring-Malcolm McDowell

Top 100 Films-#9     Top 10 Disturbing Films-#7

383466

Reviewed December 10, 2015

Grade: A

A Clockwork Orange is a groundbreaking Stanley Kubrick film and my personal favorite in his collection, more than one of which appears on my Top 100 Favorite Films list.  Adapted from the 1962 Anthony Burgess novel and thought to be unable to make into a film, it becomes  a psychedelic, creative, and fascinating experience from start to finish. Bizarre and extremely thought-provoking, Kubrick tells the story of a London sociopath delinquent living in futuristic London, and the strange behavior modifications performed on him after he is apprehended by the police, in an attempt to “reform” him and transition him to be a useful member of society.

The film delves into such social and insightful themes such as morality and psychology and questions these weighty topics. Interspersed with classical music and wonderful, colorful sets, A Clockwork Orange is a masterpiece in bizarre artistic cinema.

Alex DeLarge loves classical music (specifically Beethoven), violence, and hanging out with friends. He constantly skips school, beats people up, and parties with his friends. His pet snake is his best friend, and his parents seem afraid of him. Finally arrested after murdering an odd lady with dozens of cats, Alex is sent away to prison where he volunteers for an experimental “Ludovico” technique, which Alex assumes is a “get out of jail free” card. What transpires next is a freakish and uncomfortable experience for Alex.

The film contains startling and disturbing scenes throughout- when Alex and his team of “droogs” become inebriated from a concoction of milk laced with drugs and embark on an evening of self proclaimed ultra violence, they drive to the country where they break in to wealthy author F. Alexander’s house and beat him, crippling him for life. They rape his wife while forcing him to watch, all the while Alex happily sings “Singin’ in the Rain” timing the beats of the song to acts of violence. The brutality and creativity of this scene is mesmerizing and certainly unforgettable.

We the audience might despise a character like Alex, however, sympathy is felt for him as his “reformation” begins. A disturbing scene, which is forever embedded in my mind, involves the attaching of a contraption forcing Alex’s eyelids wide open while he watches violent scenes and is administered a drug to make him sick, thereby associating the violence with illness. He becomes psychologically screwed up. Alex (thanks to a wonderful portrayal by Malcolm McDowell) is charismatic and humorous and, in some warped way, quite likable to audience, despite his devious ways.

A Clockwork Orange continues to disturb me after multiple viewings- who can forget the sinister grin that Alex wears and the creepy one eyelash with mascara that he possesses? The film sends an interesting message about human nature as Alex turns from predator to the hunted. We ask, “are human beings  naturally prone to violence”?

The direction of the film is breathtaking- the weird colors, the (as traditional with Stanley Kubrick)  long shot camera angles, the intense musical crescendos. And the genre of classical music is a wonderful and ominous choice- almost adding a level of sophistication to Alex and the violence. The weird supporting characters (Alex’s parents, the probation officer, and his parents roommate) and the suddenly fast-forwarded sex scenes were unheard of for its time.

Immensely creative and unconventional film making with a moral message and questions about society and mankind, A Clockwork Orange is a groundbreaking and fantastic, trippy experience. A masterpiece from top to bottom.

A Serbian Film-2010

A Serbian Film-2010

Director-Srdan Spasojevic

Starring-Sergej Trifunovic

Top 10 Disturbing Films-#6

Serbian-film-poster-325x460

Reviewed October 13, 2015

Grade: B

A Serbian Film is a 2010 Serbian horror film that attempts, and succeeds, in breaking down every possible taboo barrier, albeit in a stylish, admirable, artistic way. The film is certainly not for the faint of heart and even die hard, gross out horror fans might find it too shocking to view. It is not so much the gore that is challenging- horror aficionados have seen this before, but rather the blatant display of the subject matter at hand, that delves full speed ahead into pornography, including rape (both sexes), necrophilia (sex with corpses), and child sexual abuse, that is both tough and sickening to watch. Priding myself in being able to take anything that is thrown my way in the world of film, I admired A Serbian Film’s bravery at going places rarely gone before in film. I felt, however, that the story was not too compelling or particularly well written and that the primary goal was to shock the audience rather than tackle a great story. Intriguing to note is A Serbian film has been banned in several countries, for the obvious controversial content.

Milos is a semi-retired porn star, now happily married to the beautiful Marija and living a peaceful existence. While they struggle financially, they share an adequate life while raising their six year old son Petar. One day Milos runs into a fellow porn star, Lejla, who suggests he contact a powerful porn producer and return to the business, citing an enormous windfall to be had since the producer is making more “artistic” films these days. Milos cannot resist the potential money and meets with the mysterious man named Vukmir. One thing leads to another and he is once again lured back into the porn industry. What he is not told is the premise or details of the film he is to appear in, only to show up at the designated filming location. Predictably this leads to disaster and the main plot of the film emerges. Milos is drugged in order to become a “stud”, bedding and beating almost anything that breathes…..or doesn’t breathe if you catch my drift.

Brazen is a polite way of describing this film. It is perverse and goes way out there. Milos, while drugged, begins to do crazy stuff, not realizing what he is doing and spirals further out of control as the drugs increase. The producer, in the film’s brief attempt at a social slant, cites child pornography is in popular demand as online viewers clamor for this new form of “art”. Two scenes stand out as gruesome to view. One involves a pregnant porn star giving birth- she does so and her counterpart proceeds to rape the screaming baby- the new mother grins in sinister pleasure. In another, Milos rapes his own son, Petar, while Milos’s brother, rapes Milos’s wife. Of course, being heavily under the influence, Milos does not realize what he is doing, but the film succeeds in shocking and disgusting the audience. Both of these horrific scenes have nothing to do with the story and are included to shock elicit a reaction from the viewer.

My criticism of the film is that the grotesque scenes have little to do with the story and are arguably not needed in order to further the plot. Shocking for the sake of being shocking, the film reminds me in a way of Salo, a brutal art film from 1975, which focuses not on horror, but on the horrific time of Nazi-ism. Salo is a masterpiece because it contains a powerful, thought provoking story.

A Serbian Film is a brave film, but ultimately the story achieves nothing more than being a disturbing film that I never need to see again.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-1974

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-1974

Director-Tobe Hooper

Starring-Marilyn Burns

Top 100 Films-#35 

Top 20 Horror Films-#10

Top 10 Disturbing Films-#5                                                          

15815343

Reviewed December 31, 2014

Grade: A

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the grittiest, raw, frightening horror films that I have ever seen and still holds up incredibly well in present times. Containing a documentary-like look it is incredibly scary in its grainy, visual, real-life feel. It is not psychological horror- it is in your face, brutal horror. The perception of an incredibly hot, sticky, backwoods Texas summer is incredibly well done and only adds to the terror.

A group of five teenagers travel to the vast fields of Texas- aka- the middle of nowhere, presumably on a road trip. On their drive they pick up a strange hitchhiker who ends up stabbing one of the teens and cutting his own arm. Spooked by this odd occurrence, they stop for gas and directions, but veer off course and accidentally wind up at a slaughterhouse owned by cannibals. The group of teens is led by Sally Hardesty, played by Marilyn Burns.

As the teens are chopped off in grotesque fashion, similar to a slew of similar fashioned, but less interesting horror films to follow, Sally winds up the lone survivor of the group. Burns plays the first “final girl”, a title made famous in horror films as the last female remaining alive- it was almost always a female- to take on the maniacal killer.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre features one of the horror genre’s best villains- Leatherface. The viewer knows little about him as he does not speak- is he mentally disabled? Is he an intelligent man? He is disguised behind a mask made of strewn together human skin and wields a scary chain saw. We know nothing about him- only that he loves to kill. The ambiguity is immeasurable.

Besides the way that the film is shot, another shocking element is the reality of the story. Could this really happen to the viewer? The answer is yes of course it could. How many times have we been driving and gotten lost in surroundings unfamiliar to us? There are no supernatural beings or CGI effects in this film- only a group of youngsters crossing paths with maniacs and this could happen in real-life. This realization adds to the fright.

The famous- or infamous- dinner scene is revolutionary in disgust and distaste. The family attempts to serve Sally as dessert to the elderly patriarch and as he begins to suck blood from Sally’s finger, it will force the squeamish to turn away.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a short film, running at only 84 minutes, but the breathtaking finale- Sally running through the endless woods followed by Leatherface, seems interminable. Will he catch her? How can she possibly escape?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is dirty, ugly, and intense. It is no-holds barred brutality. It is one of the best horror films ever made.

Last Tango in Paris-1972

Last Tango in Paris-1972

Director-Bernardo Bertolucci

Starring-Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider

Top 10 Disturbing Films-#8

687496

Reviewed December 5, 2014

Grade: A-

Last Tango in Paris is a very dark 1972 erotica art film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (The Conformist), starring Marlon Brando as a disturbed, angry American man named Paul, whose wife has committed suicide. He is left to survive on his own in Paris lost and without her where he runs a decrepit apartment complex. Lonely and bitter, he meets a much younger Parisian woman (Maria Schneider), equally disturbed for different reasons, and they forge a relationship that is sometimes brutal, degrading, but also containing mutual affection and need. They are addicted to each other.

This film may very well be my favorite performance by Marlon Brando. He plays a hateful, unpleasant character, yet there is something appealing about him and the viewer sympathizes with his grief. That is to Brando’s credit, of course. A lesser actor would not be as effective. He is damaged, treats everyone like shit, but there is also a vulnerability to him that is mesmerizing to watch. Brando was such a great, method actor that he simply morphs into the characters he plays. Paul is certainly his most raw and emotional performance of his career.

Actress Maria Schneider is also tremendous in the film. Equally disturbed, her character Jeanne experienced a vastly different upbringing- that of wealth and pampering. She has a fiancé who loves her dearly, yet she is drawn to the power and abuse of Paul- the fact that he is an older man is sexy to her. I kept thinking, “What is wrong with this woman?” She seemingly has everything, yet she yearns for excitement. Is Paul a fling for her? Does she care about him or is she using him? Is he using her? Could they be using each other? The film raises many psychological questions. Jeanne is clearly in emotional turmoil. In fact, both Jeanne and Paul are.

Last Tango in Paris is a difficult film to watch- several scenes are unpleasant, even brutal, but it is a character study of two damaged individuals. When Paul anally penetrates Jeanne on the floor of his apartment, forcing her to recite gibberish, it is almost too much to bear. Paul wants to know nothing about Jeanne. He does not want to know her name, her past, nothing- complete anonymity. He lives for the present and their sex is animalistic, filled with lust and need.

But these examples are a testament to the power of Last Tango in Paris. It is not boring. The finale leaves you wondering what will happen to Jeanne. Will she commit suicide? Will she return to her fiancé and life of luxury, her affair with Paul over? Was the affair only a fling for her or does she really love Paul?

The film is a dark, tragic, romantic story. It is brutal, raw, and honest. It is not to be missed.

Salo-1975

Salo-1975

Director-Pier Paolo Pasolini

Starring-Paolo Bonacelli

Top 100 Films-#32      Top 10 Disturbing Films-#1     

70099045

Reviewed October 8, 2014

Grade: A

 Salo is a deeply disturbing, highly controversial, Italian art film from 1975 that is not for the squeamish nor for the prudish. Many people will revile this film for its distastefulness and despise the film entirely- that is if they even give it a chance, which, unfortunately, many people will refuse to. But beyond the filth, perversion, and hatefulness that are themes of Salo, lies a film that is a work of art and must be experienced by the most open minded of cinema lovers.

The film is a dreamlike experience that centers on four wealthy Fascist Italian men of great importance and power, circa 1944, who decide to kidnap eighteen teenage boys and girls- the youngsters must be the cream of the crop and flawless in appearance, only the most attractive will do- one girl missing a tooth is immediately cast aside as a reject. Whether the girl flaunted her marred appearance is open to interpretation.

The youths are then taken to an enormous palace where they are stripped of all clothing and forced to endure four months of torture, sexual perversions, and humiliations at the whim of and for the entertainment of their captors. Finally, at the end of their terms, most are tortured to death by way of scalping, removal of tongues, or having their sexual organs burned off. Also living in the palace are four aging prostitutes who enthrall the men, along with the reluctant prisoners, with tales of kinky and perverted sexual encounters from their younger days mostly involving anal sex.

The film is divided into four sections based on Dante’s Divine comedy: the Anteinferno, the Circle of Manias, the Circle of Shit, and the Circle of Blood. In one sadistically disturbing scene, one of the young girls is forced to eat human excrement by one of her wealthy captors. In another, during the Circle of Shit, everyone dines on a meal consisting of human excrement where lewd sex occurs. One of the female prisoners is tricked into eating food laced with nails- a contest to determine who has the best buttocks results in the winner being brutally murdered. Everyone in the film is bisexual and there are repeated scenes of extreme, almost pornographic, violent sex scenes.

On a side note, most of the youngsters (non-actors) reported having a ball while filming Salo, and knew not what the film was really about, so the feeling on the set was light-hearted, nothing like the finished product.

While deeply disturbing, Salo is a film that some, or many, will simply not get or look beyond the obvious for a deeper message. It is a masterpiece in its ugliness, rawness, and political statements and is quite artistic once one gets past the brutality and rawness of the film.

Salo contains much political symbolism- the excrement serves as the filth of Nazi Germany and authoritarian figures throughout Europe such as Hitler and Mussolini, the abuse of power that was rampant during the time period of the film (World War II era), and the entire film is about the abuse that powerful people (the wealthy fascists equate to powerful Germans) inflicted on the weak (the innocent boys and girls mirror the Jews and the weak).

Is Salo a disturbing, grotesque film? It absolutely is. Is it mindless torture for the sake of torture like movies as extreme as Saw and Hostel? It is not. It is an art film, not a horror film. Banned in many countries for decades due to the extreme content of rape, murder, and torture of individuals thought to be under the age of eighteen, it remains widely banned to this day in several countries. Many film makers, actors, and historians struggle to maintain the artistic merit of the film.

To fully get Salo, one was delve into the mind of the film makers and recognize that it is a statement film, filled with symbolism that challenges and questions the politics of its time. Director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, was brutally murdered by a male prostitute shortly prior to the film’s release. Salo is one of the most disturbing films I have ever viewed.

Requiem for a Dream-2000

Requiem for a Dream-2000

Director-Darren Aronofsky

Starring-Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto

Top 100 Films-#51     Top 10 Disturbing Films-#3    

60001134

Reviewed September 20, 2014

Grade: A

Requiem for a Dream is a disturbing film and, at times, very difficult to watch, but it is also a brilliant masterpiece, visually as well as from a storytelling perspective, that I appreciate more and more with each painful (in a good way!) viewing experience. The film is easily on my most disturbing films ever seen list.

The subject matter is drug trafficking/addiction that effects more than one character in the cast- this subject has been tackled by a myriad of different films- think Traffic, released around the same time period as Requiem for a Dream for a comparison. At the risk of directly comparing Requiem for a Dream to Traffic, which is unfair, I will say that as gritty as Traffic is, Requiem for a Dream makes it look like a kid’s film. Director Darren Aronofsky’s direction is superb.

The story revolves around a young man (Harry) from Brooklyn, played by Jared Leto, his girlfriend Marion, played by Jennifer Connelly, Harry’s mother Sara, played by Ellen Burstyn, and Harry’s best friend Tyrone, played by Marlon Wayans. Each individual falls into a trap of drug addiction in their own way, but all are written sympathetically so that the audience cares about them and feel their sorrows intensely. Harry and Tyrone are involved in drug selling, but aspire to be successful and both love their mothers and their significant others- in Harry’s case that is Marion. Marion (Connelly) falls in over her head and is forced to turn tricks to feed her heroin habit. She is an intelligent young woman from an affluent family, which makes her downward spiral into prostitution all the more shocking. The standout among the central characters is Sara Goldfarb, who is a lonely widowed woman obsessed with a television game show. She develops delusions of grandeur of becoming a contestant and is tragically determined to lose weight in order to fit into her favorite red dress. She becomes dependent on diet pills and begins hallucinating that her refrigerator is attacking her. Aronofsky perfectly mixes in fantasy sequences showcasing Burstyn’s real attractiveness contrasted with the desperation of Sara. Sara is a sad character and Burstyn is mesmerizing in the role. How she lost the Oscar to Julia Roberts in 2000 is and always will be one of the biggest Oscar travesties in my opinion.

The special part of this film is the visual and cerebral aspects. The film is dreamlike in its texture and extreme, fast paced close-ups of the diet pills or heroin being consumed. The viewer feels the highs and lows that the characters feel and there is immediately a sense that all of the characters are doomed and hopeless. In addition, this film has one of the most effective and haunting scores I have ever experienced, right up there with John Carpenter’s Halloween. The slow motion sequences combined with frenetic images make this quite cerebral to watch. I cannot watch this film very often as it is too disturbing and upsetting, but I sure am glad it was made at all.