There are many talented directors. But very few are immortal – immortal good. I often thought about the best directors for me and finally came to a conclusion: The trio of the enfant terrible of modern film. Who belongs to this trio? The answer can be found below.
Lynch or the unique way of unfaithful storytelling
Nobody creates such bizarre, atmospherically dense and exciting worlds as David Lynch. His worlds obey certain rules and mechanisms, which are completely alien to the portagonists (and the viewers). Now it depends on how the protagonist interacts with this world. And that’s what makes Lynch’s films and series so entertaining. But these are much more than just entertainment. Lynch’s work creates moods that pass into the audience. The spectator also suddenly sees himself in this bizarre world with different rules and loses himself in it. The end of a movie by David Lynch is like the awakening from a deep, intense nightmare.
One of Lynch’s greatest strengths is his narrative style. This may be incomprehensible to “normal moviegoers”, but it is Lynch’s unfaithful, non-linear and alternative narrative style that enables the creation of these “Lynchy-specific worlds”. Anyone who has ever seen Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001) or Inland Empire (2006) knows what I’m talking about. In addition to this unique narrative style, Lynch’s visual brilliance is also evident: here one notices that Lynch is an artist in the truest sense of the word. His work goes further than film. As a composer, painter, designer, lithographer, photographer, Lynch has more artistic vision than other directors. And all this experience flows into his films. His cinematic work can also be described as dark, moving paintings with meticulous sound design.
Lynch’s latest cinematic work, Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), this 18-hour monster film, was voted best film of 2017 by the respected Cahiers du Cinéma. In fact, the “film” reflects everything that makes Lynch so special: excellent performance; broken, bizarre (intermediate) worlds; nightmarish musical interludes; surrealistic meta-moments; deeply human emotions; the philosophy of the absurd, etc.
Indie director Jim Jarmusch recently described Twin Peaks: The Return as ‘the Best of American Cinema of the Last Decade’. And he is absolutely right about that!
Shyamalan or modern emotional art poetry
Shyamalan is a director who sets great store by poetry. Some critics or moviegoers may make fun of such (naive) poetry, but it has its own charm and is met with approval by many viewers. Shyamalan makes modern fairy tales with a pinch of poetry. Lady in the Water (2006) wasn’t his first fairy tale at all. One would like to say, everything began with the sensationally told horror fairy tale The Sixth Sense (1999). That’s true, but subsequent films such as Unbreakable (2000) or The Village (2004) can still top the subtle narration and are remembered once and for all as classics of American cinema.
Shyamalan tells modern fairy tales for adults on the one hand and turns genre conventions upside down on the other. The director has set himself a monument by staging certain genre films against conventions: The Eastrail 177 Trilogy (Unbreakable, Split (2017) and Glass (2019)) redefines the superhero film, Signs (2002) the genre of the alien invasion film. The Happening (2008) is staged as an “anti-disaster film” and The Visit (2015) torpedoes the horror genre with wit.
Apart from these two key elements, Shyamalan’s films are above all one thing: emotions! His stories are sometimes brutal, creepy and bizarre, but they are always deeply human and turn to the “good” in us. Emotions are the key for Shyamalan. Those who haven’t shed a tear watching The Village or Lady in the Water seem to have understood nothing…
Shyamalan loves to show how once broken families can reunite. The family is perhaps the most important thing for Shyamalan, in almost all of his films the family plays an important role. And for him it is so important to show that the family is strong and holds together in the end. Shyamalan is a modern storyteller who wants to show adults that the most beautiful thing is always family cohesion. But he also shows what happens when you are dealing with destructive and non-functioning families. Best examples of this are Signs, The Visit, Split.
Shyamalan is a controversial director, but one of the most original of all. His own ideas and style are most important to him. The renowned French film magazine selects three of Shyamlan’s films as one of the Top 10 best films of the year: The Village (2nd place in 2004), Lady in the Water (6th place in 2006) and Split (8th place in 2017). I can only agree.
Von Trier or the intellectual provocation
The Danish director Lars von Trier is a master at showing inner moods. His films are extensions of what the main character goes through: they reflect their inner life. Films such as Antichrist (2009), Melancholia (2011) or Nymphomaniac (2013) are unique atmospheric recordings. As if the poet Charles Baudelaire had filmed his own poems. Von Trier’s films are true (poetically cruel) provocative psychotrips. His depression trilogy (Antichrist, Melancholia, Nymphomaniac) is hard to bear, but it is the most brilliant cinema. Technically perfect, visually brilliant, outstandingly dramatic and intellectually appealing. His latest film, The House That Jack Built (2018), a two and a half hours tour de force in the mind of a serial killer set in the 1970s in the West Coast of the US, is a crazy masterpiece (more here).
His Europa trilogy, The Element of Crime (1984), Epidemic (1987) and Europa (1991), is atmospheric, disturbing, partly political cinema. The Idiots (1998) and Dogville (2003) are both very experimental films, but very successful. Dogville, staged as if as a play, is a small miracle; it is a classic masterpiece of film history. The fascinating camera work is a highlight.
And with The Kingdom (Riget, 1994) von Trier made a very Lynchian TV series: bizarre, supernatural, intriguing.
I warmly recommend these three exceptional directors to all cinema and film lovers. Enjoy!