A selection of my favourite filmic aestheticism
Unlike my other lists, I won’t be putting these in any particular order. When shots are this mesmerising and unique it’s near impossible to decide between them. So, here are my 10 favourite shots:
Seven Samurai (1954)
This symbolic shot comes at the climax of the film. It’s so poignant, conveying a sense of loss and the inferiority of our attempts to fight. These samurai witness nothing but meaningless bloodshed, and they do their best to honour those who died for so trivial a cause. Man must control his bloodthirsty greed. It’s a striking closing image to one of the best films ever made.
Paris, Texas (1984)
This shot comes from my favourite scene in my favourite film. The projection of Travis’ image on Jane’s face, with the glass a physical barrier between the two seems to be a reflection of their desires. They long to be with each other, but due to their deep-rooted issues, they are doomed to be apart. It’s a heartbreaking visual in a heartbreaking film.
The Illusionist (2010)
The ending to this melancholic, yet beautiful film, is one of just a moment of striking visuals in one of the best-animated films I’ve ever seen. We see the illusionist give up his rabbit, a symbol of his passions and career. It’s the end of an era, reflected through a bittersweet image of a man moving on in a world where he’s lost his place. Cinema really can be breathtaking.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
This shot displays both Kubrick’s meticulous nature, with such striking symmetry, but also Hal’s malevolence. He merely observes, and yet the terror he evokes comes from his metaphysical, yet inescapable form. Kubrick truly had an eye for an image and understood how to create tension. This may seem an odd shot to obsess over in a film full of some of the best cinematography ever, but, simply put, it stuck in my mind.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Taxi Driver is stunning throughout. It’s shot in such a trancelike, ethereal manner. The nighttime driving scenes, with the dazzling city lights, made me fall in love with this film. This shot evokes a sense of the atmosphere of the film. Despite its dark, foreboding tone, it really does have the ability to whisk you away.
Before Sunrise (1995)
This beautiful end shot from a stunning film is full of symbolic meaning. The old lady walking past represents time, a key theme as the two youngsters try to escape it. The shot is of the setting where they slept together, the remnants of their night are shown at the bottom right of the screen. A bottle and some glasses are the only physical evidence of their meeting, as the day has come to bring back reality and sweep away their romanticism.
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
Werner Herzog is a director known for his hazardous, yet bold style of filmmaking. Aguirre, the Wrath of God was shot in an actual Amazonian rainforest. The vision and courage needed to make such a demanding film are legendary, and both cast and crew deserve infinite praise for their braveness. This shot emphasises the madness of their venture, the physical demands on both cast and crew, and Herzog’s incredible use of cinematography. They genuinely had to scale the rough, untamed terrain. To shoot and act in such a focused and sophisticated manner whilst such formidable and challenging obstacles lay in their path is astounding.
Lost in Translation (2003)
This shot from Lost in Translation conveys why it is such a melancholic masterpiece. Sofia Coppola is so meticulous in her creation of images. The distance between the two symbolises their unconsummated, platonic love, and the city lights in the background are encroaching upon them, symbolic of their attempts to escape from the boisterous, claustrophobic, relentless city life. I love the look of cities at night like the one in Taxi Driver. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the countryside without any exposure to them, but something about city lights always seems so magical to me.
This film is about as gritty and solemn as it gets. No silver linings are left. This shot represents corruption winning. A decent, hardworking family, are torn apart, both physically and metaphorically, at the expense of the greed of the rich. Those in high places always encroach on the lives of the humble, and this shot perfectly displays this.
Suspiria is laughably bad. Though heralded by some as a masterpiece, it suffers from poor pacing, acting, writing, and needlessly over the top gore (I get it’s a Giallo film, but it’s so forced). Even the popular soundtrack is ridiculously bombastic and often out of place. However, the cinematography and mise-en-scene save the day. Without this, it would not be a cult classic. The use of bold, hyper stylised lighting and shadows are used throughout to create an eerie atmosphere (when you aren’t laughing at it), and undeniably striking images. This image is one of a number of examples of this.