‘Eyes Wide Shut’ is probably the most Kubrickian of all Kubrick films. You can attempt an explanation to all of his other films, but no absolute one is possible to this one. It is the master’s final statement on the slumber of modern life. It’s dream-like narrative fueled by stunning visual detail, a bravura performance from Nicole Kidman and a masterful use of Ligeti’s music, lend the film the ability to compel the audience to get lost in it, and believe me is it hard to recover. Very few films are as twisted as ‘Eyes Wide Shut’.
Labyrinthine tales can be even more compelling than straight-forward stories, if done correctly, and what so acutely separates trite attempts to ‘confuse’ an audience is the fluidity in which the plot unfolds. Twisted storylines dovetail into any number of infinite possibilities, juxtaposing reality and fantasy with confident ease which settles any audience in for a challenging but ultimately rewarding ride. None of the films below are easy pieces of work, but they all do something vitally important with the medium of cinema in their experimentations- leading to innovative ideas and rare masterworks that transcend the presence of traditional storytelling. With that said, here’s the list of movies similar to ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ that are our recommendations. You can watch some of these movies like ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
10. Code Unknown
Michael Haneke originally attempted this kind of film with 71 Fragments, a Chronology of Chance – an abject failure despite the great film-maker behind it. Code Unknown is a more successful voyage into challenging cinema; with effectively interwoven storylines that leave the viewer wanting more every time the credits roll- though that is also the heart off the issue. Despite some great stand-alone scenes, Code Unknown’s grand message is pushed as some kind of profound realisation that looms larger and larger with each second taken towards the climax. It does not, however, reveal anything- and several viewings in I can gather little of worth from this twisty flick other than the rare microcosmic wonder Haneke was able to squeeze in.
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9. Lost Highway
Another failure that still provides fascinating viewing, Lost Highway sees David Lynch in a warm up for his later explorations into segmented storytelling in a movie that purposefully snaps in two mid-way through, shifting personas with the only constant as a mysterious man with a movie camera. The first 40 minutes of Lost Highway, focusing on the ghoulish plight of Bill Pullman, is superb. Masterful, even. By the time Lynch tears the gears to pieces and goes his own way, the stifling tension of Pullman’s section is utterly wasted. It continues tediously shuffling on without end- but little could blunt the singular power of that first act. See the film for that, if nothing else.
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8. F for Fake
Perhaps Orson Welles’ finest work (though I’m not a fan), F for Fake is deliciously twisty: An examination of truth in the media that leaps between several different stories all at once without ever losing focus, propelled by a charismatic central performance by Welles himself. The final revelation reminds me somewhat of The Holy Mountain’s own insane reversal, taking the audience by surprise in the most deviously intelligent bit of film-making Welles ever pulled. The man’s ambition and ego weighs down many projects but everything just snaps into place here.
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Alain Resnais capped off his heyday with this gem of international film-making, employing actors across continents to bring together a frequently hilarious, lovingly crafted satire on the creative process. The man cuts between a dying writer, his characters and abstract moments much in the same way as previous efforts like 8 ½ and Day for Night did, as well as the later All That Jazz. What separates it from those films is a distinct focus on scriptwork, rather than visual luxury. The page crackles with wit, malice and constant sharpness which has characters re-written mid-scene, as well as coming out of control of the writer in a creative rush. It’s engaging, entertaining and well worth the time of anyone who can find this criminally obscured Resnais classic.
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6. That Obscure Object of Desire
That Obscure Object of Desire is that perfect kind of surrealism whereby it makes you question yourself before doubting the nature of the film. Its subtle pricking at our subconscious understanding of what a normal story entails provokes question after question into its inherent truth and that, in a beautiful little bow only Buñuel could deliver, is essential to the effect of its twisting, turning little plot. All the key players deliver superb performances and the director himself presents perhaps one of his top 3 finest works- making That Obscure Object of Desire a seminal piece of surrealist cinema, as well as a sublime example of twisting plotlines.
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5. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky‘s masterpiece and a perfect companion piece to ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Black Swan’ revolves around Nina Sayers, a young ballet dancer at the New York Ballet company which is preparing for its next season that is to open with Swan Lake. Beth, the prima ballerina has retired and Thomas, the director is looking for a dancer who can play both the white swan and the black swan with ease. While Nina excels at being the white swan, Thomas remains unimpressed with her portrayal of the black swan which another dancer Lily portrays with inexplicable ease. With a growing insecurity towards Lily and with her hallucinations of black swan (in the form of her own doppelganger) taking over, Nina finds it difficult to cope up to the pressure, yet convinces Thomas that she’d play both the roles. During one of her rehearsals, she sees Lily getting dressed as Black Swan but in fact hallucinates to see her own doppelganger as the black swan. She stabs her doppelganger with a shard of glass and goes back to the stage, only to know that she had stabbed herself instead. The confusions surrounding her own personality, her overbearing mother and a very tasking job form her own nemesis. ‘Black Swan’ rightfully earned Natalie Portman the Academy Award for Best Actress, along with several other awards and recognition for the movie in many departments.
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4. Mulholland Drive
Of course it had to be here. David Lynch’s assuredly surreal style made him most likely to cram two features onto this list and, with its wrecking-ball of a mid-way reversal; ‘Mulholland Drive’ is worthiest amidst his work. The general eeriness that permeates every scene of the flick, as well as odd-ball characters darting in and out of the thread to ultimately tie us all up in knots speaks to its superb screenplay which remains compelling beyond incomprehensibility. So too does Lynch’s knack for mixing humor with horror play into the consistently enthralling Hollywood nightmare this movie gifted us with. Diverse enough to attract and repulse huge audiences, be a feature on endless lists (including most of our own) and always provoke heated debate, ‘Mulholland Drive’ is as good a twisting, turning tale as we’ve seen this century.
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Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s marathon mind-fuck, Sleuth involves an ongoing battle of one-upsmanship between classical megastar Lawrence Olivier and the then new enough face of Michael Caine. There is an adept handling of tone that ripples throughout our journey into the deadly narcissism, lending goofiness to serious scenes as well as managing to imbude them with rug-pull power that emerges out of the blue. Sleuth deserves to rank so high alone for how effectively it maintains momentum for all of 140 minutes, both actors working at their limit. Deservedly, it’s the only film bar Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf? To have every member of the credited cast nominate for an Oscar and continues to be a staple of intelligent but refreshingly wacky mystery cinema.
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2. The Hunters
Theo Angelopoulos’ magic meditation on life, death and an amusing selection of the things that lie in-between, The Hunters’ consistently imaginative visual storytelling and masterfully told episodic stories make it one of the man’s greatest achievements – as well as a ravishing treat of twisted narrative technique. It follows events in the lives of several people whom have witnessed the death of their friend, tracking through moments that each of them connect as meaningful, the last of which takes place most in an unbroken 25 minute long scene. Angelopoulos’ genius is segmenting his action so expertly that this one take feels like several different shots sewn together to aid the passage of time – and yet he never cuts. It’s a lusciously photographed, humorous, dramatic and mysterious slice of Greek culture that’s well worth your time.
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1. Last Year at Marienbad
Last Year at Marienbad’s ubiquitality has made it a constant fixture on my lists, and in none of them does it sit more at home than here. Alain Resnais’ gem of avant-garde Nouvelle Vague stands with utter confidence in its overpowering incomprehensibility, weaving a mesmerising nightmare of pure cinema that actively perplexes its audience, ever-torturing potential viewers with its tantalising cinematography and the career prospects of its main players. Diving in is to invite a brave new world of filmic possibility into your life.
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