Basement Films: Not Responsible for Any Altered State of Conciousness

Sean Strain

Have you ever watched a movie and just gone, “What is going on here?” You may feel that it’s just you who doesn’t get what’s going on and some hipster will talk about the deep symbolism of the movie, but sometimes you’re not actually uncouth as some movies are really about nothing.

I once watched a German Expressionist film called Institute Benjaminata where in one scene two characters, a man and a woman, walk down a flight of stairs and into a forest that magically appears. The man holds the woman upside down over a bridge and water starts spurting from her mouth like a fountain. End scene. What just happened?! Maybe there is a secret meaning I am unable to discern, maybe something to do with gender roles or the environment. I doubt it.

Some movies just seem to want to be original and do certain things for the sake of bbeing unique. Sometimes this can be refreshing in a culture that merely recycles the same old cliches from yesteryear, but often times it can be quite jarring and pull some right out of the film.

This isn’t to say that a film that is strange is not symbolic and pretentious. I have seen some very bizarre films where, I may not completely comprehend them, but I have a sense that there was a purpose to what I spent two hours of my life viewing.

One film that comes to mind is David Lynch’s Eraserhead, a film about an eccentric man who discovers his girlfriend is pregnant and must marry her. It doesn’t sound  strange, but once you see that his child looks like Captain Aardvark from Star Wars and a woman performs tap dance routines in his radiator, you realize it’s a pretty insane film. Yet, I wasn’t left confused or bored, but I actually had a near spiritual revelation by the end of the film. That may seem a bit extreme, but I sensed that I was watching something religous; I was viewing something that was conveying something holy through the bizarre. If there is no resonating feeling this in a film, then I don’t care to see it.