Purgatory's kind of like the in betweeny one.
August 11, 2015 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Give me your recommendations for creeping, meandering, dream-like movies!

Three movies that immediately come to mind that fit this bill for me:

It Follows
In Bruges
No Country for Old Men

They take their time in pacing, there are a lot of quiet, thoughtful scenes, and they all end somewhat ambiguously. I think it's less about the ending being ambiguous per se, and more that the plot of the movie isn't a race to a specific finish line.

Anyway, I'd like to watch more movies like that, please.

One thing all three of these have in common is an inescapable, looming spectre of death that hangs over the main characters. I don't know if that's a requirement, but it appears I have a type. Bonus points if the movie leaves you with a lingering feeling of dread.
posted by phunniemee to Media & Arts (97 answers total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
The Dead Girl. Heaven. River's Edge.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:28 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Heavenly Creatures
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:31 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

White Material by Claire Denis.
posted by thenewbrunette at 7:32 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tideland a.k.a The Terry Gilliam Film Everyone Except Me Hates
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:34 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Picnic at Hanging Rock. The Last Wave. Walkabout. Last Year at Marienbad.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 7:34 AM on August 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

Waking Life
posted by Small Dollar at 7:40 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

3 Women
Anything by Tarkovsky, especially Solaris.
posted by veery at 7:41 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Picnic at Hanging Rock, aaand I just came to recommend the first 3 films Lemmy Caution did and see I'm too slow. Those films up there.
posted by wwax at 7:48 AM on August 11, 2015

Jacob's Ladder; The Return of the Soldier.
posted by BibiRose at 7:50 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Perhaps The Reflecting Skin.
posted by pheide at 7:50 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Let The Right One In
posted by athenasbanquet at 7:53 AM on August 11, 2015 [5 favorites]

Well, it's not quite like your examples but I definitely felt that sense of surreal dread while watching Under the Skin (I don't think it's as bad a the rating implies, you just have to go into it with an open mind--it's kind of fascinating)
posted by sprezzy at 7:57 AM on August 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

I haven't actually seen it, but I think Don't Look Now might be perfect:

While Don't Look Now observes many conventions of the thriller genre, its primary focus is on the psychology of grief, and the effect the death of a child can have on a relationship. Its emotionally convincing depiction of grief is often singled out as a trait not usually present in films featuring supernatural plot elements.

As well as the unusual handling of its subject matter, Don't Look Now is renowned for its innovative editing style, and its use of recurring motifs and themes. The film often employs flashbacks and flashforwards in keeping with the depiction of precognition, but some scenes are intercut or merged to alter the viewer's perception of what is really happening. It also adopts an impressionist approach to its imagery, often presaging events with familiar objects, patterns and colours using associative editing techniques.

posted by showbiz_liz at 8:00 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Upstream Color
posted by raisindebt at 8:01 AM on August 11, 2015 [10 favorites]

The Norwegian film O' Horten is the first movie that popped into my head when reading your description.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:09 AM on August 11, 2015

Also Martha Marcy May Marlene and The Addiction (1995)
posted by crush-onastick at 8:16 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Into the Badlands (1991), an undeniably creepy and meandering "horror western."
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:28 AM on August 11, 2015

Celine and Julie Go Boating.
posted by zutalors! at 8:28 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also: Light Sleeper (1992); Amateur (1994).
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:35 AM on August 11, 2015

Inland Empire, Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, Only Lovers Left Alive, Dead Man, Careful, Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, Blue, The Double Life of Veronique (both Kieslowski), The Fountain, Solaris (the Soderbergh one for the purposes of this question), Miller's Crossing, Sierra, Eyes Wide Shut...
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:37 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles: 201 hypnotic minutes of film about a woman's everyday life. At first, it's calm, thoughtful, and ultra-quiet--it has that quality of mindfulness where you're awakened to all sorts of quotidian details. But it covers three days, and it very, very subtly ramps up the anxiety and dread, though the main character is still just, like, buying groceries and stuff. It's a bit of a spoiler to say this, but by the end, it meets all your criteria in a way you're unlikely to predict.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:52 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oops, my phone auto-corrected and I missed the edit window. Siesta, not Sierra.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:59 AM on August 11, 2015

And The Limits of Control.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:07 AM on August 11, 2015

Dead Man. Only Lovers Left Alive. Really just dial up the Jim Jarmusch channel.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:14 AM on August 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

Another by Martin McDonagh, writer/director of In Bruges: 7 Psychopaths.

I really liked In Bruges, and liked 7 Psychopaths even more. Also, Sam Rockwell. (And lots of lingering dread!)
posted by Room 641-A at 9:32 AM on August 11, 2015

Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala; Herzog's Nosferatu and Kaspar Hauser.
posted by jamjam at 9:40 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shit, how could I forget Wings of Desire? If you have not seen it, I'd bet you'd love it. And Element of Crime.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:42 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Melancholia (dir: Lars Von Trier)

Pretty much anything by Terrence Mallick has the pacing you're talking about. He does reverie particularly well. My favorite is Badlands but Days of Heaven is also revered.
posted by vunder at 9:43 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

posted by Grandysaur at 9:44 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Jinx vunder!
posted by Grandysaur at 9:44 AM on August 11, 2015

What about Russian Ark?
posted by selfnoise at 9:49 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Jim Jarmusch has a thing for slow-paced road trips:

Stranger Than Paradise (may be a bit to slow for some tastes)
Down By Law
Dead Man
Broken Flowers
posted by hydrophonic at 10:13 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

If you liked No Country for Old Men, there is a decent chance you will enjoy 'The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada', directed and starring Tommy Lee Jones.
posted by biffa at 10:14 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh also, In the Mood for Love (dir: Wong Kar Wai).
posted by vunder at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Paris, Texas and Keane (Lodge Kerrigan) would make a good double feature.
posted by rhizome at 10:27 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just re-read your question and realized that you mentioned the spectre of death...of my suggestions, probably Melancholia is the only one that really features that for sure, Badlands arguably. The others are just more about pacing and quiet moments.
posted by vunder at 10:44 AM on August 11, 2015

I kinda think The American fits. I'd rate it more highly than the IMDB average.
posted by Green With You at 10:47 AM on August 11, 2015

Until the end of the world (Wim Wenders)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:54 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ah I see a bunch of my fave films here already.

Kwaidan (a swell old compilation of Japanese ghost stories)
Kurosawa's Dreams (along similar lines. It starts off nice enough, but gets pretty dark when you get into it..)

The Machinist
, which also reminds me of: Repulsion

Once Upon A Time In The West
(not your average cowboy movie)

And for something a little different, an experimental documentary with a hypnotic texture: The End of Time
posted by ovvl at 11:15 AM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mulholland Drive, The Limey and Limbo spring to mind.
Last Night (1998) is sort of about the end of the world.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is from the Jarmusch repertoire as mentioned above.

Really, the late 90s/early 00s was great for this sort of thing, until 9/11 gave people more concrete things to worry about.
posted by cardboard at 11:20 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Upstream Color, for sure.
posted by jbickers at 11:38 AM on August 11, 2015

Never Let Me Go (underated, super creepy)
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (a cinematic masterpiece, must-see film)
About Elly (not creepy, but terrible in other ways)
posted by nanook at 11:47 AM on August 11, 2015

Ohhh ... forgot about The Babadook!
posted by jbickers at 12:01 PM on August 11, 2015

Damnation by Bela Tarr (and everything he's made since)
Winter Light by Ingmar Bergman (I'm sure there are others but this one immediately popped to mind)
Later Robert Bresson (Lancelot of the Lake, L'Argent, The Devil Probably) might do the trick too.
The Shout by Jerzy Skolimowski

I might chime in with more later...
posted by AtoBtoA at 12:26 PM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Enter the Void, Millennium Actress, Perfect Blue...
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:28 PM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (2013), beautiful, meandering, dreamlike and utterly haunting.

The Hunger (1983) Very gothic and full of the shadow of death.

Seconding Dersu Uzala.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 1:44 PM on August 11, 2015

The Innkeepers. Creepy, slow, weird.
posted by knitcrazybooknut at 1:47 PM on August 11, 2015

Tarkovsky's Stalker
posted by picea at 2:19 PM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Frozen, but not THAT Frozen.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:31 PM on August 11, 2015

under the skin

and seconding Tideland (Juliet, I like it too)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:53 PM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

also, Moon
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:56 PM on August 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

The New World
posted by book 'em dano at 5:03 PM on August 11, 2015

Three I didn't see mentioned:

Miracle Mile - some pretty dark stuff in the background as the story progresses.

Martyrs - not for everyone. The end is quite unsettling.

The Divide - will not restore your faith in humanity.

This one's a maybe: Ex Machina - I saw it around the same time I saw It Follows, and even though they're completely unrelated, they both had a similar 'feel' to them (I think a lot of it was due to the sound desgn).
posted by doctor tough love at 9:34 PM on August 11, 2015

Oh - also this: SUNDAYS

The link is to a 15m short which I believe is being expanded into a feature-length film.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:43 PM on August 11, 2015

Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Emerald Forest
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
posted by soakimbo at 10:25 PM on August 11, 2015

Ah yes this is the place where I mention my favorite film director Bertrand Tavernier. All of his movies are like this but especially Deathwatch, Captain Conan, and Coup de Torchon. He his without a doubt the master of meander.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:53 PM on August 11, 2015

Brazil, the director's cut. It's an excellent sci-fi movie, but at a certain point the plot becomes really strange and dreamy and things stop making literal sense. (Unlike a lot of Terry Gilliam's later movies, the movie does find its way back to coherence and there is a reason why things got totally loopy for a while.)

Thirding Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The Bed Sitting Room doesn't quite fit what you were asking for, but it's worth tracking down in if you want a really weird movie. It's a post-apocalyptic comedy with an absurdist, Monty Python-ish feel, but in addition to being funny and surreal it's also got a deep sadness in it. English people are just barely getting by in the ruins of London, being ever so polite as they slowly starve, and every now and then one of them will mutate and turn into an inanimate object or an animal. It's all very strange and silly, but a few moments will haunt you.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:45 AM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:17 AM on August 12, 2015

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Proposition
posted by munchingzombie at 9:01 AM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Great recommendations from all (not that I've seen half of them - I'll disclaim that I know very little of film in general). I never really thought of In Bruges as dreamlike, huh, but you'd probably find Primer (2004) to your taste, made by the director et al of the previously mentioned Upstream Color (which itself is very different from both Primer and In Bruges). Wonder how much discussion there has been on Primer by MeFites over the years ...
posted by pos at 3:04 AM on August 13, 2015

Also, Tarkovsky films.

Tarkovsky to the max.
posted by pos at 3:05 AM on August 13, 2015

Oh! Brothers of the Head (2005), an adaptation of (redacted, potential spoilers). Disregard negative dismissals of this film and just watch it cold from the beginning - no watching trailers, reading reviews, googling too much, etc. - and you shall likely be rewarded.
posted by pos at 3:09 AM on August 13, 2015

The Hungarian film White God!
posted by pos at 3:12 AM on August 13, 2015

Haven't seen it and not planning to because it might just piss me off, but perhaps the newly released Ex Machina.

Studio Ghibli animated films eg. Spirited Away.

Not something I'd necessarily recommend, not a great film, not for the square and squeemish, but perhaps Kelly + Victor?
posted by pos at 3:20 AM on August 13, 2015

Local Hero
posted by PenDevil at 10:41 AM on August 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Valhalla Rising
Donnie Darko
Also seconding Upstream Color.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:53 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Synecdoche, New York
posted by Tom-B at 11:22 AM on August 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Blue Ruin
posted by Crane Shot at 11:28 AM on August 15, 2015

I can't believe everyone else's first thought wasn't also Eraserhead. Not a good choice if you're looking for something light, action-packed, and cheerful like In Bruges, but it sure matches the description of creeping, meandering, dream-like, ambiguous, and likely to cause lingering feelings of dread.
posted by sfenders at 5:43 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

More in line with the examples: House of Sand and Fog.
posted by sfenders at 6:04 PM on August 15, 2015

The Ice Storm
posted by ennui.bz at 6:46 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Insomnia (the Norwegian one)
Taste of Cherry
Spirit of the Beehive

maybe: Children of Men or Beyond the Black Rainbow

and +1 for Herzog's Nosferatu, Ghost Dog, Lancelot du Lac, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and whatever AtoBtoA recommends.
posted by Wemmick at 12:06 PM on August 16, 2015

oh, and maybe Le Cercle Rouge and Zyagintsev's The Return
posted by Wemmick at 12:28 PM on August 16, 2015

You may be interested in the so-called existential movie genre, which is often defined to be about death or the meaning of life, but is more about the main character having least control over their fate. The Killers come quickly to mind, as do most noir movies.
posted by Brian B. at 12:43 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Stalker.

Also Remains of the Day.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:27 PM on August 16, 2015

The Rapture epitomizes those qualities for me. You won't encounter it the way I did --- stumbled across on basic cable in the middle of the night, with no idea what you're in for --- but I think it'll still establish its hold. Pre-X Files David Duchovney, if that tips you either way.
posted by Diablevert at 7:44 PM on August 16, 2015

Surprised no one has mentioned the lovely Housekeeping
posted by Mchelly at 4:30 AM on August 17, 2015

A Field in England is right up your alley.
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:08 AM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by Soliloquy at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2015

After Life (the Hirokazu Koreeda one).
posted by Jeanne at 9:32 AM on August 17, 2015

Tender Mercies with Robert Duvall and Ellen Barkin. Such a quiet, slow moving, wonderful film. Duvall won Best Actor and Horton Foote won Best Original Screenplay.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:02 AM on August 17, 2015

Oh! Another one is "The Straight Story" which got a Best Actor nomination for veteran character actor Richard Farnsworth. Gorgeous film.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:26 AM on August 17, 2015

I cannot recommend The Double Life of Veronique highly enough. It's weird and dreamy and dreadful and beautiful. The look of it is so unique -- all vivid greens and purples, and a visual motif of optical illusions and distortions. A little girl's eye enormous and warped through a magnifying glass, a woman on a bus watching the cityscape distorted through a small glass orb held up to her face, a choir dispersed by the rain, the last singer's body quavering in a way that seems just slightly, ineffably out of sync with how it should be.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is also very cool, dark, and dreamlike in a very 60's Czech way.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 11:39 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Run, Lola, Run.
posted by Melismata at 12:55 PM on August 17, 2015

Night On Earth especially the Finland part
Grand Canyon
Mystery Train
Donnie Darko
posted by artlung at 9:44 PM on August 17, 2015

Little late to this but for meandering, dream-like, spectre of death, full of dread, free of any glimmer of hope or understanding... Inland Empire (David Lynch has a good handle on this theme generally especially in Mullholland Falls & Lost Highway) & Last Year Marienbad are the kings of this for me in fiction film.

Maybe some of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films, particularly for me, The Cure, Pulse & Bright Future. Staying with that Japanese theme, Woman in the Dunes never fails to haunt my dreams. Picnic at Hanging Rock mentioned above a few times is great but from the same director, the Last Wave may fit the bill. Peter Greenaway's The Falls, Drowning by Numbers, Draughtsman's Contract all come to mind.

Anything by Bela Tarr or Michael Haneke or Ulrich Seidl. If you want mostly meandering there's Theodoros Angelopoulos I think his Ulysses' Gaze might be a good entry point for you. Generally I think Eastern Europeans really have a good handle on this so if you want to explore that kind of cinema I'd look there.

For more recent films White God or perhaps Hard to be a God. End of Time echoes this in the documentary world and you may want to check out the director's other documentary films. Or maybe Grizzly Man? Or a 9 hour movie about the Mongolian Taiga?

Something "lighter"? Maybe Time Crimes, the Fall, Seconds, the Stone Tape, Eyes of Fire, Dust Devil. How about the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre? I think it works more like an experimental film than a horror film but it kind of fits in this category.

Speaking of experimental... There's lots but maybe Kurt Kren? Or Russian Parallel Cinema? Hermann Nitsch?

I probably should stop.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:58 AM on August 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

12 Monkeys?
posted by reiichiroh at 8:01 PM on August 18, 2015

I'm also late to the game but this is exactly the type of movies I'm into. I'll second Ashwagandha and ask him/her to never stop.

My additions:
The films of Roy Andersson.

I recently saw his latest, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. It begins with looming death and never lets up. But my favorite film of his is Songs from the Second Floor. Don't miss that one. It fits the bill perfectly.

Also check out Late August at the Hotel Ozone if you can find it.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned The Exterminating Angel by Luis Bunuel. So awesome.

And finally, ones you have to check out, are two films by Ermanno Olmi. Il Posto and I Fidanzati.

For a long ride, look into the film version of The Iceman Cometh by John Frankenheimer. Great cast, death always on the horizon. Oh, and On the Beach by Stanley Kramer! Everybody dies!
posted by perhapses at 10:09 PM on August 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'll second Ashwagandha and ask him/her to never stop.
Ha - just for that I'll add 2 more! The Spirit of the Beehive & L'Avventura.

I had completely forgotten about Exterminating Angel (how could I possibly have forgotten!) which is a great suggestion. Olmi is definitely a master meanderer. Roy Andersson is a great choice as well, his Songs from the Second Floor is a favourite.
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:45 AM on August 19, 2015

I'd never thought of my favorite films as purgatorial, but that's what they are. I love movies that wander into a world and give you time to live there, even if it's a dark place. My two all time favorites have already been mentioned: Wings of Desire, Days of Heaven

The next Wenders I'd watch with this feel: Alice in the Cities . The next Malick would be Thin Red Line

The film on my list that would most fit with opening suggestions would be:
Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Husbands and A Woman Under the Influence also fit, especially with the ambiguous, dreadful stops at the end.

Fellini's Amarcord : Very very dreamlike, yet somehow raw and naturalistic.

Blow Up : Swinging sixies swinging very existentially

For Jarmusch, I'd pick Dead Man as fitting the best. Down by Law is my fav by him.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors captures Carpathanian village life caught somewhere between Czarist 19th century and an ancient folk ballad.
posted by bendybendy at 8:29 AM on August 19, 2015

Response by poster: So many suggestions! I'll never have to leave my house again. I get the feeling that after some of these I may not want to anyway.

Thanks, guys!
posted by phunniemee at 10:40 AM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Still Life
posted by she's not there at 2:26 AM on August 21, 2015

Mr Turner
posted by PenDevil at 1:14 AM on August 31, 2015

Coming in real late again.... Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
posted by PenDevil at 2:42 AM on September 17, 2015

Response by poster: CEot3K is one of my all time favorite movies!
posted by phunniemee at 5:03 AM on September 17, 2015

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