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5 Films Exploring Human Darkness That Should Be On Your Must-Watch List

As human beings, we tend to hate things that are morally preachy and have a melancholic fascination to explore lives soaked in darkness and desolation. Curiosity, the occasional kitten-killer, is one of the main reasons our race goes through plenty of unsavory experiences. And cinema has produced countless movies that explore such precarious lives of human beings and has intrigued, baffled and disturbed viewers due to its sheer profoundness. A film’s protagonist’s inability and desperation to come in contact with people and the perpetual struggle to fit in a bizarre, freakish world ridden with murders and misdemeanors is a deeply, disturbing dark portrait of a human soul. Cinema is a language; and some directors tell stories using incredible command over the cinematic language.

The list features films that explore human darkness and evil. It should also be noted that the films here may include from a wide range of genres that focus on dark human minds at its core. Checkout:

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Kubrick’s dystopian crime drama delves deep into the sheer madness and chaos inherent in human psyche. The film’s protagonist Alex DeLarge is a psychopathic maniac with an insatiable taste for violence. In the classic Kubrician style, the film questions morality and human psychology in the most eerily profound and disturbing manner. Kubrick’s genius roars throughout the film as he toys with our emotions by providing an utterly despicable protagonist but find ourselves sympathizing with him and strangely relating to his character at some places. The excess and debauchery in which Alex allows himself to indulge are presented to us in an almost Nietzschean way. He and his droogs (or friends, in the film’s slang) do whatever they want; they beat people up, they steal, they take drugs, they rape and murder.

The Shining (1980)

Adapted from Stephen King’s 1977 novel, ‘The Shining’ tells the story of Jack Torrance who arrives at a chilling, mysterious hotel with his family to be interviewed for the position of winter caretaker. Jack slowly loses control of his mind as he sinks deep into the horrifying depths of unimaginable darkness. ‘The Shining’ isn’t really the traditional horror film that we’re so accustomed to seeing. There are no jump scares or flashy sound effects. But it affects you profoundly on a psychological level, unnerving and disturbing in ways you haven’t been before. ‘The Shining’ explores the dark sides of masculinity and indolence as the devil embraces Torrance’s soul, wiping away the slightest tinges of humanity.

Mulholland Drive (2001)

‘Mulholland Drive’ is a great film. A film like ‘Mulholland Drive’ is not to be understood and should never be tried to either but rather be experienced. ‘Mulholland Drive’ follows the plot of a young, aspiring actress wanting to make it big in the world’s most glamorous film industry who meets an enigmatic, amnesiac woman. Peppered with moments of pure, neck-prickling sensation, but the emotional centre remains elusive. The film feels like an exquisite painting of the dark human subconscious; the depths we fear to go to. But Lynch pulls it out, tears apart into pieces and exquisitely presents them on-screen. The film has been described as a ‘poisonous valentine to Hollywood’, since it marries a fleeting celebration of Hollywood and acting to Lynch’s continuing themes of darkness and horror lurking not far beneath a beautiful surface. Mulholland Drive takes his thesis of ‘small towns with secrets’ from Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, and expands it to an entire city; everyone is part of this world where simultaneously dreams are made and lives are nightmarishly torn apart.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

One of the finest American films of the 21st century, ‘There Will Be Blood’, is an epic tale of greed, ambition and megalomania. There Will Be Blood establishes itself as a film of Darwinian ferocity, a stark and pitiless parable of American capitalism. Starring the great Daniel Day-Lewis as a manically competitive, hard-working oilman, the film is a harrowing portrait of a man driven by his deranged ambitions and rapacity towards the extremities of immorality and violence. The entire film is ambiguous about his emotions as Plainview is a man who has made a world all for himself and shuts people off when he discerns them sneaking into his realm of congenital hatred and utter disdain for humanity. ‘There Will Be Blood’ is an astounding character study of a man’s fall into the deep pits of greed, violence and obsession. The film’s masterfully executed opening sequence runs for ten almost completely wordless minutes. In it, director Paul Thomas Anderson shows Plainview’s rise from shabby, bearded prospector searching for the smallest scrap of precious metal all by himself in deep and dangerous mineshafts, to self-proclaimed “oil man”. The holes he graduates to are still dark and deadly, but the rewards are now far greater. Along the way, he picks up a son, orphaned by one of his own oil wells. He displays a great deal of what appears to be love for the boy, until the point when the child no longer becomes a business asset. Plainview is a liar, a cheat, a raging alcoholic. Day-Lewis, in a performance of unbelievable intensity, imbues him with a grasp of sanity that is only just barely controlled.

Shame (2012)

Shame gives a peak into a world run by guilt and remorse. Probably the best film by Steve McQueen to date, “Shame” tells the stark and cold story of Brandon, a sexually obsessed man personified by Michael Fassbender who is forced out of his controlled environment by the arrival of his younger sister Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan. Brandon has built around himself an environment in which he can exercise his addiction to sex without having to get involved in any kind of emotional intimacy. At its heart, what we have in front of us is the story of a wounded man who is a victim of the modern world’s lack of real feelings. Sex becomes then a sort of shell, a distraction used to bypass the pain and the loneliness to numb ourselves by the stimulation of the senses. Aronofsky’s films often explore the darker sides of the human condition. Depression, anxiety, and fear can all be found in this films. In “Shame”, we see sex-addiction and how soul-crushing it can be. What drives the film is a sense of sublimated sexual energy. Sex is shown as a way of manipulation, as a way to get through life, as a way to integrate the body into the world and to understand what weakness and strength really are.

That’s all folks!

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