10 Boldest Filmmaking Achievements in Cinema

The word “bold” could be defined as the willingness to take risks. What has this got to do with cinema, or for that matter, any form of art? The fact that great works of art have all endured a great deal of pain and anguish is what makes them so profound and powerful. And all great works of art, I believe, have come at the cost of a harrowing sacrifice made by an artist in a fervent endeavor to break free from the shackles of artistic traditions and norms, thereby, liberating the art into spaces devoid of control and regime. In the context of cinema, bold is a word that any ardent cinephile would instantly associate with names like Kubrick, Godard and Akerman.

This article attempts to honor some of the boldest pieces of cinematic art that have captivated the fascination of film connoisseurs around the world; some of which are now widely revered and celebrated by film zealots and some of which have been sadly overlooked over the years for their sheer audacious and experimental approach that have incidentally changed the course of cinema and shaped it the way as we know it today. So here is a compilation of 10 bold films that, in my opinion, have been pushed the boundaries of cinema.


 10. ‘Eraserhead’, David Lynch

In one of the greatest directorial debuts ever in cinema, David Lynch spawned a new genre of surrealist body horror films with a cinematic nightmare that transcends earthly emotions and feelings into his world plagued by surrealistic nightmares and ensnared in a sense of utter mystification. ‘Eraserhead’ was exposed to much hatred and loathing during its initial release due to its bold use of visuals and strong sexual undercurrents that permeate the film with an inexplicable sense of horror and psychological discomfort. The film slowly garnered a cult following among midnight movie circles and is now a highly revered piece of cinematic art among hardcore film fanatics and Lynchians. Heavily influenced by the likes of Ingmar Bergman and the European style of surrealistic filmmaking, Lynch crafted a seminal piece of art that would later influence the works of many contemporary directors including Darren Aronofsky and Anurag Kashyap.


9. ‘The Tree of Life’, Terrence Malick

No filmmaker since the great Andrei Tarkovsky has managed to seamlessly weave profound philosophical aspects of life using the pure cinematic vocabulary in a way that Terrence Malick has. ‘The Tree of Life’ is unarguably his magnum opus and a staggering achievement in filmmaking. The film chronicles the childhood of a middle-aged man and uses it to explore the origins of the universe and inception of life on Earth. Malick valiantly defies conventional cinematic grammar and disregards a structural narrative for the film, demanding his viewers to experience the sheer grandeur of the universe and questions our relationship with the ethereal nature of the Earth and the meaning and purpose behind our existence. Philosophically affluent and visually astonishing, ‘The Tree of Life’ is an experience that goes beyond what our meager intellectual powers could ever analyze or comprehend; one that every human being on the planet must savor before they die.


8. ‘Synecdoche, New York’, Charlie Kaufman

If ever there was one man who could anatomize the human psyche into fragments of distorted emotions, he is Charlie Kaufman. A visionary screenwriter and a spokesperson for the perennial outsider yearning for love and liberation from the clutches of mediocrity and existential numbness, Kaufman pushed his way behind the camera in 2009 with ‘Synecdoche, New York’; a postmodern experimental drama that starkly divided critics on its release due to its surrealistic overtones and bizarre storytelling style. “Incomprehensible”, “pretentious”, “self-indulgent” were words tossed by critics as the thematic elements of the film continue to be discussed and dissected by film enthusiasts.

The film follows an ailing theater director whose obsession with realism begins blur the boundaries between fiction and reality as he convinces his actors to live within the constructs of the city created. Underneath the chaotic emotional discharge and thematic complexities, ‘Synecdoche, New York’ is a film about us; the life we live, the feelings we possess and the desires we cherish; a film whose stature would only climb up in the coming years for its soaring ambition and seductive boldness.


7. L’Avventura, Michaelangelo Antonioni

Michaelangelo Antonioni was an auteur well and truly ahead of his times. Antonioni chiseled a cinematic language that predominantly focused on visuals and designs over character arc and plot development. His 1960 mystery drama, ‘L’Avventura’ was a landmark achievement in cinema that transmuted narrative structure into a breathing space for contemplation and introspection. A deeply melancholic and weirdly funny exploration of the futility of human relationships, ‘L’Avventura’ centers around the disappearance of a woman during a boating trip as her lover and her best friend become ensnared in the labyrinth of romance and infatuation during the subsequent search for her. Booed and jeered by audiences during its premiere at Cannes, the film redeemed itself as it went on to bag the Jury Prize at the same venue 2 weeks later and has since received immense critical acclaim for its bold, visually stylistic and innovative approach to storytelling.


6. ‘Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’, Chantal Akerman

A 24 year old Chantal Akerman intrudes the world of cinema with a fiercely bold, raw, authentic style and approach to filmmaking, soaked in a sense of Hyperrealism that was hitherto unseen in cinema. ‘Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’ is perhaps the greatest film that explores mundanity and is unquestionably the finest feminist film in cinema history. Akerman forces the viewers to observe an ignored life, rotted by the mundanities of a banal existence. The film captures the life of Jeanne Dielman, a single, widowed mother who works as a prostitute to make ends meet for herself and her teenage son. What Akerman does here is pull extensive focus on Dielman’s regimented day to day schedule of cooking, cleaning, shopping and mothering over 3 days, turning the most humdrum episodes of her life into a harrowing exploration of existence and self-alienation. Akerman juxtaposes Dielman’s silent existence in the film with the underlying seething rage on patriarchal conditions that forms the thematic structure of the film. ‘Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’ is now widely regarded as a masterpiece of avant-garde cinema and one of the greatest films ever made.

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