Limitless Cinema in Broken English

February 5, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — celinejulie @ 11:26 pm

This is about a poll in my bilingual blog:

My eleventh poll of films about a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown is inspired by many things. One of them is my own problem. After I had been diagnosed as potentially having a tendency to have glaucoma, I was very worried that I might be blind in the future. I was worried too much and all happiness seemed to vanish from my life. I think it caused me the most anxiety since the bombs in Bangkok on December 31, 2006, but worrying about the bombs is not as mentally disastrous as worrying about being blind. It is because all of my friends were worried about the bombs, too, so you felt better because everybody shared your anxiety. But worrying about one’s own health is something other people can’t really share.

My anxiety affected my movie-watching last week. While I was watching the first half of MARTIAN CHILD (2007, Menno Meyjes, A+/A), I was worried a lot that I might have glaucoma. One symptom of glaucoma is the gradual loss of visual periphery. And I was afraid I had that while I was watching the first half of MARTIAN CHILD. In that first half, I noticed that there are many shots of John Cusack and Bobby Coleman together, but every time I focused on the face of one of these characters, I couldn’t observe the emotion change on the face of the other character. And it seems that the emotions on the faces of these two characters keep changing all the time while they are talking. But I couldn’t observe the emotion changes in both faces at the same time. I was sitting in the middle of the theater at that time. In that position, I though I should be able to notice all the important things on the screen, but I couldn’t. I could “see” both faces on the screen at the same time, but I couldn’t “pay attention” to both faces at the same time. I was afraid very much that I might be losing visual periphery.

However, my fear lessened during the second half of the film. I started to think I could see the emotion changes on both faces at the same time. What is the difference between the first half and the second half? I guess it might be the intention of the filmmaker. He might intend to create some distance between these two characters in the early part. There might be some space on the screen between these two characters in the first half, but while these two characters began to like each other, the space between them disappears. They started to appear close to each other on the screen, and it is not difficult any more to focus on both faces at the same time because they are close to each other.

I don’t know if my guess is wrong or right. Maybe I just try to find a way to console myself and the fact is that I begin to lose visual periphery. Anyway, I started to feel better after I knew that glaucoma can be cured and after I confessed about my bad karma last week.

My anxiety last week reminds me of some films about male characters who are under severe pressure, going mad, or are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. So here is my favorite list of films about a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown.


1.ALICE (2005, Marco Martins, Portugal)


3.BYE BYE BLACKBIRD (2005, Robinson Savary, Luxembourg)

4.DARK HORSE (2005, Dagur Kari, Denmark)

5.DREAMS (2005, Mohamed Al Daradji, Iraq)

6.L’ENFER (1994, Claude Chabrol, France)
From a script by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Francois Cluzet

7.FEAR OF HEIGHTS (1994, Houchang Allahyari, Austria)
Starring Fritz Karl

Synopsis from

“This is an unusal love story between Mario, a young man from the city, who despite his age has already failed in life, and a country-woman from a small village in the provinces who is disenchanted with life. Wanting to start life afresh, Mario flees to the countryside and ends up on a mountain farm that belongs to Ms Gusenleitner and her father, who gives him work as a farmhand for bed and board. For the first time in his life, Mario comes to experience love and sexuality without hate and dependency. However, he fears that his idyllic life will be short-lived when his past catches up with him.”

8.THE HEART (1955, Kon Ichikawa, Japan)

9.IMPERATIVE (1982, Krzysztof Zanussi, Poland)
Starring Robert Powell and Brigitte Fossey
You can read an interview with Zanussi in Thai in the book FILMVIRUS 2.

10.I ONLY WANT YOU TO LOVE ME (1976, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany)
Starring Vitus Zeplichal
Synopsis from

“A man is interviewed by a sympathetic woman. His tale unfolds, of hard work that never pleases his parents, of a father who denigrates his efforts, of an indifferent mother. He builds them a house. Instead of offering their flat to him and his bride, they give the flat up, so he goes to Munich to work in construction, bringing his wife who is soon pregnant. They buy things on credit; he works overtime. He shows up with flowers and expensive gifts. When construction slows and he works less overtime, he cannot adjust his spending habits: he needs to be loved. Pressures mount. When he snaps, and violence ensues, who will be his victim?”

11.THE MACHINIST (2004, Brad Anderson, Spain)

12.MOTHERLAND HOTEL (1987, Omer Kavur, Turkey)

13.MY STEP BROTHER FRANKENSTEIN (2004, Valeri Todorovsky, Russia)

14.SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963, Samuel Fuller, USA)

15.SOOTH: HIS PURE STORY (2003, Patana Chirawong, Thailand)

16.SPIDER (2002, David Cronenberg, Canada/UK)

17.STATIC (1985, Mark Romanek, USA)

18.THE THIRD PART OF THE NIGHT (1971, Andrzej Zulawski, Poland)

19.TO CRY UNTIL EXHAUSTION (1972, Jochen Gerz, West Germany)
The man in this video may or may not be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but he acts like he may be.

20.WOYZECK (1979, Werner Herzog, West Germany)
From a play by Georg Buchner, starring Klaus Kinski and Eva Mattes

Synopsis from

“Everything in town appears calm, placid, lovely. But Woyzeck, a rifleman assigned as an orderly, hears voices — the times are out of joint, at least in his cosmos. To his captain, Woyzeck is a comic marvel: ignorant but courageous, full of energy to little purpose. To a local doctor, Woyzeck is a curiosity, the object of cruel study. Woyzeck, 40, has a young wife, Marie, and a small child. He dotes on them, but Marie, even though she has periods of guilt and remorse, carries on affairs and flirtations. When the captain lets drop broad hints of Woyzeck’s being a cuckold, his inner demons and the voices of the spheres take over. Will madness bring action? Of what sort?”

You can cast multiple votes.



  1. My choice is #2 Assassinaton of Richard Nixon by Niels Mueller. I first saw this
    film at the Cannes Film Festival where it was released. I have seen it since then at least 5 more times. To me it ranks even with Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” in its intensity and inner torture as portrayed by Sean Penn (Sam Bicke) in Mueller’s film. It is truly the story of a loser who tries to find his purpose in life, which leads him into disaster. In my opinion the film is one of those (master)pieces which one would have expected to get a much broader distribution than what it seems to have achieved. However, the film will remain of timeless importance for those who like excellent artistry, be it the actors or the director.

    Comment by James Arter — February 6, 2008 @ 2:28 pm

  2. Thank you very much, James, for your comment. I totally agree with you about THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON. I think it is a masterpiece. Before I saw this film, I didn’t like the acting of Sean Penn in MYSTIC RIVER. I think he overacted in that film. But Sean Penn is great in THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON. I think Neils Mueller knows how to handle Sean Penn’s way of acting.

    I agree with you that the film is great in its intensity and inner torture.
    Other recent American films that I think are as great as this film are MONSTER (2003, Patty Jenkins) and CAPOTE (2005, Bennett Miller), which are very intense and deal with inner torture, too. THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON should be as famous as MONSTER and CAPOTE. If I were an Oscar judge, I would give an Oscar for Best Picture to these three films in their years.

    I also think THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON is like a distant cousin of Maurice Pialat’s films. The film is not like Pialat’s, but some emotions and feelings in the film remind me of some emotions in Pialat’s films.

    Talking about intensity and inner torture, I also think about THE MACHINIST, which is very intense and deals with inner torture, too. But the feelings and emotions in THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON are much more REAL than the ones in THE MACHINIST. I think THE MACHINIST is a great film, but I can’t help thinking the style of THE MACHINIST is a little bit too much. The film is a little bit too stylish. I think I prefer THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON, MONSTER, CAPOTE, Maurice Pialat’s films, and Christian Petzold’s films to some stylish films.

    I don’t know if I use the right English word, but I would like to describe that I feel as if I was BURNT by THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON. The film gives me such a strong, intense feelings that I feel as if I was burnt by the film.

    Comment by celinejulie — February 6, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

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