Top 5 Film Mindfucks

There are films that leave you scratching your head, replaying moments, wondering where the last two hours went. The film didn’t feel like a break, did it? It wouldn’t when you’re spending the whole time trying to make sense of everything. Maybe you need to see it again to put your mind at ease. Ultimately, you’re left thinking: “What a mindf**k!”

5. Memento

One story told in order: one story told backwards, until they both meet in the middle. I needed my thinking cap on for this one. One story about a guy with an inability to retain new information would cause enough questions.

Christopher Nolan’s second overall feature film composed of an unknown (to anyone outside Britain) cast, an independent budget and a plot supplied by his younger brother, Jonathan.

With one half of the story of course depicted backward, we’re given the climax up front, in which our apparently innocent hero is seen in the act of murder, and therefore spend the rest of the film trying to understand why. This is where the idea of “unreliable” is important. Can we trust Leonard’s system of polaroids, notes and tattoos to retain information, not to mention where he’s getting said information? Questioning why you should trust these people only leads to a dead-end. “We don’t know them”? Leonard knows no one.

Due to this, if the story itself doesn’t drive you crazy, you learn to trust while watching Memento.

It’s very clever, Chris. Perhaps too clever…?


4. The Machinist


Couldn’t sleep last night? Ah, no problem. You can make up for it tonight.

Haven’t slept for days? Maybe you’ll hallucinate. Maybe you’ll accidently chop someone’s arm off. Maybe you’ll jump in front of a car…?

Made famous by Christian Bale’s yo-yo dieting from this insomnia-ridden machinist known as Trevor, to beefhead Batman, Scott Kosar’s story of paranoia, amputation and, ultimately, murder is laced with chilling imagery and makes you realise just how vital your bed really is.

Unravelling Trevor’s true story from the many clues dotted through his life is exhausting in itself. Post-it notes with hangman games appear in his flat, blood seeps from his fridge, an Ivan? What’s his game?

A deep sigh of relief is experienced when it’s over. The end may not be pretty but at least you know. I’d recommend sticking this on next time your kid whines they want to stay up. They’ll never ask again.


3. Brighton Rock


Straying from the usual a little bit, this film messes with the mind in terms of romance. In a crime, British mob-esque film, you end up asking the age-old question: Does he like her?

From the director of 28 Weeks Later, Rowan Joffe puts a helpless waitress in the middle of a gangman’s mishap that includes beating a man to death on Brighton’s “beautiful” (debatable) beaches. When Rose is used as a distraction for the panicked victim to get away, Pinkie Brown is then ordered to get close to her to keep her from talking – one way or another.

With plenty of chances to “finish the job” Pinkie gets increasingly frustrated as to why he hasn’t, while Rose is all the more convinced he truly loves her. But when everything she does becomes infuriating, how can you tell?

While Pinkie is trailing Rose, she asks him to make her a message on an LP. With her out of the way he spills an explosion of hateful feelings, but when she finally listens to it after his death, the disc skips and repeatedly plays “I love you”.

The true headache is whether Pinkie even knows what he feels. He dies with Rose knowing he loves her, so her feelings are reserved, whereas, Pinkie is a mystery.

My favourite moment was on the edge of a cliff. When Pinkie threatens to throw Rose off, he asks “Scared yet?”

“Not when I’m with you”
You start questioning yourself when you coo at a moment like that.


2. Pan’s Labyrinth


Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” before Tim Burton thought to do “Alice In Wonderland”. Guillermo Del Toro delivers the creepy fantasy film I was waiting for after putting down the charming fairy-tale. Young Ofelia’s more severe circumstances make for a more tense experience though, so I’d recommend a blanket. Stuck in a situation that involves a fascist Captain step-father and a new-born brother to protect, Ofelia’s imagination not only releases her from her Hell but motivates her to escape it. Ofelia’s – or Princess Moana’s – secret world soon spills over into reality – where the consequences are definitely not imaginary. Fauns and fairies visit her remote home, leading her back to a world of creatures with eyes in their hands and giant toads, where she is promised a chance to return to her place in the royal family if she completes the labyrinth. Deciding what’s real and what’s imaginary becomes pointless towards the end and not knowing in fact eases the mind after a traumatic ending.  I told you: get a blanket.


1. The Skin I Live In


Why aren’t you scared someone will kill you this second? Broad daylight? No eerie long music notes to warn you? No creepy toys around to come to life?

The true art of Pedro Almodóvar’s “The Skin I Live In” is the utter casual way in which it’s pulled off. No clichés whatsoever, which makes a nice change. It makes you suddenly wary about turning a corner in a rich neighbourhood during midday.

Based on French author, Thierry Jonquet’s novel, “Tarantula”, Antonio Banderas leads a disturbing story of mentality (?), rape (?) and mutilation (?). All aspects are questionable: did something beautiful or horrifying occur? A plastic surgeon kidnaps a confused boy and turns him into an astonishingly attractive woman…? That same boy gets close to a mentally disturbed girl and they’re already halfway through the act that she starts to scream in terror…?

You never scream but are left severely disturbed.


Fair warning: these are not films to be watched if you want a relaxing night with a blonde girl with relationship problems. Nor are they suitable for that sneaky arm round the chair when your date jumps – there will be no jump, just a busy mind.


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