I make a lot of recommendations to people, and it really can be hard to keep up with them all. So I thought today, instead of promoting some mammoth 3-hour movie nobody can be bothered watching I’d recommend some short films instead. So the following is a list I am fairly confident in, ten great short films I always recommend. In no particular order:
Night and Fog (1955)
Usually I would save the best for last but I might as well start off with the best, it doesn’t really make a difference. Alan Resnais’ Night and Fog is simultaneously the best short film ever made and the best documentary. It contains actual footage of death in the concentration camps during the Holocaust, as Resnais walks us through the process of being transferred to the camps, murdered and dumping the bodies. It’s graphic, it’s disturbing, but it must be seen by everyone. That includes you. You will not regret it.
The longest film on this list, at over 40 minutes, is also the most challenging to watch. Not because it’s graphic or anything like that, but because it is incredily slow-paced and uneventful. Sure, I’ll admit it’s an “art” film or whatever you want to label it, but I absolutely love Michael Snow’s little mindblowing experiment. Consisting of several takes edited together as one, all it is is a camera zooming very slowly onto a postcard, with unexpected results. This is one of the few films that actually takes you to another world, if you’re patient enough.
Don Hertzfeldt made this short ten minute animated experiment, which has since gathered a cult following as being simultaneously hilarious and very disturbing. It follows the eventual loss of sanity of an animator, who is comissioned to make a series of short advertisements. The ads gradually begin to lose all sense of plot or decency and begin to mirror the mental insanity of their creator; i.e., they fall apart as he does. This is certainly not for everyone, but the only way to find out if it’s for you is to see it.
The most simplest and lightest film on this list, this is a three-minute animated short by Dony Permedi which follows a Kiwi bird and his dreams to fly. Don’t worry, there’s no clichés or annoying messages shoved in our faces here. Just a surprisingly light and beautiful story that’s worth seeing at least once.
Two Cars, One Night (2006)
Nominated for an Oscar, Taika Waititi’s hilarious 2006 short might not satisfy everyone, but it is both a feat of cinematography and direction, as well as some acting from some young kids which in itself isn’t half bad. Later adapted into the full-length feature Boy, this short indie movie is on its own a nice achievement for Waititi and is certainly worth seeing.
The Alphabet (1967)
Okay, back to the serious side. This was one of David Lynch’s first short films; a four-minute nightmare that makes absolutely no sense (surprise, surprise) but is nevertheless very haunting, abrupt and well-made. It continues to haunt and scare me each time I watch it and I don’t know why; it’s just the theme of it and the startling image of a girl vomiting blood that snaps some inner nerve of fear. To quote one of Lynch’s later films, “people are frightened by what they don’t understand.”
Ten Minutes (1994)
This short film by Ahmed Imamovic was voted “Best Short Film in Europe,” and it is highly deserving. It contains a stunning tracking shot, a powerful message and is ultimately unforgettable. I only just saw it the other day but it’s raw power is still rooted in my mind. A fantastic movie that is definitely, definitely worth seeing.
Sean Ellis’ 2004 short film was later adapted into a feature film by Ellis, and either movie is worth watching, but the short film is where it began, and is probably the easier version to watch. It is about an art student who works the night shift at a supermarket and imagines that he is able to make time stop at his convenience. A beautiful movie with an intriguing premise that does not disappoint, Cashback is one of the best short films of recent years. [NB: I'm unable to find a decent video for this to post on here, but if you search for it on Google it shouldn't take too long to find it]
Land Without Bread (1933)
The first of two short films by Luis Buñuel on this list, Land Without Bread‘s title alone sounds ominously depressing, and that is exactly what the movie is. It is a Buñuel-style documentary which explores the region of Las Hurdes and the villagers that live there, as well as their shockingly primitive way of life. Quite disturbing but ultimately very necessary, it is a good eye opener about the lives and customs of people in some of the lesser privileged parts of the world.
Un Chien Andalou (1929)
There’s no way this list would be complete without Luis Buñuel’s surrealist gem which features such shocking imagery as an eyeball being sliced by a razor and ants crawling out of a hand. If you watch it and find that it doesn’t make much sense, then realize that that’s the whole point; the entire concept was based on dreams and the film attempts to take a look at the darker nature of dreaming and some of the more disturbing things we see in our dreams. Simply, it’s a friggin’ masterpiece.
That’s my list. What do you think of these films? Is there any more you’d like to add? Leave a comment below. Thanks.