So, to be honest, I don't have much knowledge about this genre of film so we might as well learn together.
In simpler words, its like taking a good picture and distorting it so it looks far different from the original to inspire certain effects and/ feelings.
The films in this genre often create an illusion of abstract art by the way the story is told; with unclear flow and hidden meaning often left for the audience to decipher however they please.
The films use cinematography, narration, editing, sound design and music to create worlds of distortion. Whether the film is depicting madness or creating an atmosphere of existential confusion, these films somehow experiment with the audience’s sensory perceptions in order to uproot the viewer from reality.
These films welcome (or in some cases, force) the audience to interact with a plethora of psychedelic imagery, sounds, and/or narration.
I have sampled a couple of films that fall under this genre.
1. Un Chien Andalou (1929) Dir. Luis Buñuel
I once used this film as an example of an experimental film because of its 'unclear' and 'undefined' in structure.
In the film, there is no overt plot, but rather an amalgam of surrealistic images. We are presented with distorted religious symbols, such as ants crawling out from a stigmatic hand of the protagonist (a young unnamed man played by Pierre Batcheff), and dream-like scenarios. For instance, the young man dragging a piano topped with a dead donkey carcass and two priests in his pursuit of a young woman (Simone Mareuil).
Such images, surrealistic in nature, create a distorted sense of reality, a quality found in many psychedelic films.
2. The Red Shoes (1948) Dir. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s classic film The Red Shoes incorporates Expressionistic sets and costumes, subjective point of view shots, and passionate performances to tell the story of a young woman, dancer Victoria Page (Moira Shearer), torn between her love for a young man and her love of dance.
The dance sequence performed toward the end of the film captivates the viewer with its mesmerizing, painted landscapes and P.O.V shots which subtly bring Victoria’s subconscious thoughts and fears to the forefront.
Banned upon release, the film depicts a destructive playfulness that Czech authorities apparently found dangerous. There is a political undertone to the film with World War II film stock inter-cut amongst the characters’ antics. Daisies stirs up the audience with its Puckish protagonists and psychedelic imagery and editing.
4. Point Blank (1967) Dir. John Boorman
John Boorman’s neo-noir thriller, Point Blank is a hypnotic film of a man’s thirst for revenge. The pacing, color choices and atmospheric music, led by Lee Marvin’s deadpan portrayal of Walker, yields a mesmerizing experience for the viewer.
The film’s pacing, which goes from a slow and moody atmosphere to periods of intense violence and action creates a lulling hypnosis which the viewer is then startled from. Color plays a role in the atmospheric tone of the film, for example, Lynn’s silver grey apartment reflects her drab unfeeling character, riddled with guilt.
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Dir. Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece is an awe-inspiring, brilliant piece of art. The film’s stunning visuals combined with the grandeur of the classical music scores and György Ligeti’s haunting, dissonant avant-garde music produces a filmic experience like no other.
Kubrick’s exploration of the history and future of humankind excites the viewer’s senses as it leads us to confront the great unknown of space and time.
What aspects of this genre do you identify with? What are your thoughts on this genre? Let us know in the comments section below.