"Mind-Blowing" Movies: 'Under the Skin' & 'Enemy'

Exploitative, intellectually challenging, or even deeply shocking at their core, “Mind-Blowing” movies have been around nearly as long as the medium itself. That big-time film stars Scarlett Johansson and Jake Gyllenhaal buck convention by recent choices in risky films, is exciting and noteworthy.

Like a punch in the gut, “Mind-Blowing” (or the less-cutesy “Mind-Fuck”) movies challenge the conventional narrative and play havoc with our expectations. “What the f*@k just happened?!?” would be an acceptable and common response to the revelation that you just witnessed.

From ‘Salo’ to ‘Caligula’, ‘The Exorcist’ to ‘Into the Void,’ there’s nothing more shocking than being completely derailed from conventional thinking once a skilled director has had their way with your brain. No, you can’t just “un-see” what disturbs you. Embrace it and let that disjointed joyous image compel you to examine what just happened.

Two finely constructed recent examples are ‘Under the Skin’ and ‘Enemy.’

Both films employ big-time movie stars in smaller, independent features that will at once confound and enliven your movie-watching. Mind-Blowing movies can linger in your mind and confront your sensibilities…when they’re as well made as this recently reviewed pair.

Scarlett Johansson stars as an extraterrestrial explorer in director Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under the Skin.’

‘Under the Skin’ is an artful, narratively sparse sci-fi film that is more interpretive visual poetry than traditional “genre movie.”

ScarJo delivers an understated performance as an alien traveler who has come to Earth to seduce and “collect” male specimens. Johansson seamlessly evolves with the role, as gender archetypes are explored and her interplanetary traveler transforms from predator into prey.

This deliberate, thoughtful film will have cinematic navel-gazers engaged and feminists enraged.

I enjoyed Glazer’s film as a creative examination on human relationship dynamics. The male characters are wholly unsympathetic as Scarjo’s “Woman who Fell to Earth” becomes the subject of man’s “fuck it or kill it” mentality.

‘Under the Skin’ is worth a look, but may require a degree of patience from viewers expecting a traditional science fiction film. Beautiful to behold and mysterious.

Mind-Fuck Movies

©IMDB

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in ‘Prisoners’ director Denis Villeneuve’s doppelgänger head-scratcher ‘Enemy.’

Cast as both ‘Adam’, the milquetoast college professor and ‘Anthony,’ the struggling actor whom he exactly resembles, Gyllenhaal is fantastic as two clearly defined characters on a collision course with twisted fate.

‘Enemy,’ much more than ‘Under the Skin,’ is a film rife with political overtones and symbolism and an overall more intellectual feature. Blessed with a more conventional narrative style than Glazer’s film, Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Enemy’ completely draws you into its complicated web.

‘Enemy’ slowly closes its grasp around your curiosity as to what conclusion the events are spiraling towards. Without building up expectations too much, do stick with ‘Enemy’ until it concludes as it’s reputation for a “WTF” ending is completely warranted.

With the proliferation of superhero stuff and romantic fluff, both ‘Enemy’ and ‘Under the Skin’ were completely satisfying in terms of “something different to watch.” Both films are languidly paced, which allows their respective slow-builds to denouement make a powerful final impression.

The best and most rewarding films that I’ve enjoyed all left me contemplating what I’d just experienced for days, or even weeks, after I’d seen them. ‘Under the Skin,’ for it’s lyrical and brutal beauty and ‘Enemy’ for it’s sociopolitical horrors of modern living both stand tall in the pantheon of classic Mind-Fuck cinema.

‘Enemy’ and ‘Under the Skin’ are available to watch at home through streaming, VOD and rental services.

Flixnerd Rating: ‘Under the Skin’ ★★★☆☆
Flixnerd Rating: ‘Enemy’ ★★★★☆

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