The fantastic and effortlessly excellent fellow film blogger Sam Fragoso of Duke and the Movies recently proposed an intriguing and thoughtful idea for a blogathon, titled Explain Earth to Extraterrestrials with Five Films, which really is self-explanatory. However, here’s what it’s about in Sam’s words: “Extraterrestrial forces land on Earth. Unknowing of our planet and society, you can pick five films from the history of cinema that represent humanity. What titles would you choose and why?” After giving it serious thought and long contemplation, I’ve come up with my five, and here they are. Be sure to leave a comment with what you think of my choices and some choices of your own:
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
My choice of this film won’t surprise regular readers. It’s unashamedly my favourite movie of all time, and I also consider it the greatest film I’ve ever seen. That on its own is no reason to put it on a list as vital as this, but I honestly believe there is a lot in this movie to be learnt about humanity, inhumanity, life, death, love, hate, evil, purity and all other things within our comprehension. There are at least three moments in this movie where the images on screen are so powerful that I cannot cope and feel like bursting into tears or screaming. No other movie has triggered such emotion more than once, and this film does it at least three times. In 139 minutes, it is as perfect and wholesome as the movies can possibly get, and is an important step into not so much understanding humanity but realizing and comprehending it.
The Best of Youth (2003)
The aliens may need a cup of coffee or two to make it through this six-hour Italian epic, but despite its length, The Best of Youth never wastes a single moment of its runtime. The plot is always moving, and the director manages to make us feel terrific compassion and emotion for the characters as they stumble through life over the course of decades. This film would be perfect for teaching the aliens about how humans live, coincidence, chance and relationships between people. It really is a lifetime in six hours.
Waking Life (2001)
Very few films have made me think as much about such incredibly large and incomprehensible subjects as existentialism and the meaning of life as Richard Linklater’s Waking Life. And yet, Waking Life makes us think about these things without making the thinking too difficult or unwelcome. Linklater and his actors almost seem to think for you in this dialogue-driven film, one of the most thought-provoking movies ever made. This is why I think it’d be important for aliens to see, so that they grasp the infinite discussion and thought the human mind is capable of.
I think the aliens would like this one the most, because it is the easiest to watch for someone new to the planet Earth and it is one of two on this list that transcend location and genre because there is absolutely no dialogue whatsoever. The music is moving and powerful and the images are incredible. This movie almost seems like it was made just for aliens or people not accustomed to the human race and their effect on the planet Earth.
Le Quattro Volte (2010)
The other film on this list with no dialogue at all, Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte is one of the most… I struggle to think of an adjective, but important seems right, so I’ll say important: one of the most important films ever made. It is also the closest film I’ve ever seen that comes to comprehending the meaning of life and what comes after death. Though I’m an atheist and believe that death really is the end, it is enlightening and beautiful to see a film which shows life as four stages: First we are human, then when we die we become animal, then when we die again we become plant, and then when that reaches its end we become simply a disembodied spirit, floating above all. Dialogue is not necessary for a film like this; Le Quattro Volte is, in the best sense of the word, universal.