Welcome to The Juice, a monthly column at The Slice where we present to you a curated programme of films to tune into each month! This month our programme is Institutionally Absurd!
This edition of The Juice has been put together by Joel Whitaker and Andrea Cordoba
Institutions are a bit like the monolith in 2001. They’re big, ominous, and can have worldchanging effects. They are at once fairly simple to understand and complete mysteries. This month’s column looks at films that explore the absurdity of institutions, how they can isolate, alienate, and baffle, with films ranging from three hour catalogues to rodent musicals.
The Falls (1980) – dir. Peter Greenaway
Imagine a world where a completely unpredictable event happens that violently shifts and changes society over a relatively short period of time. Struggling? With his feature debut, Peter Greenaway explores the after effects of the ‘VUE’ (Violent Unexplained Event), with the film looking at the lives of the Falls (all of those whose surname begins with the letters F A L L). Hilarious, gorgeous, and sometimes challenging, Greenaway captures perfectly the strange language of official documentation, creating an aesthetic from bureaucracy and making a farce of documentation. As funny as it is surreal, Greenaway’s debut provides the perfect starting point for the institutionally absurd.
Where to watch UK: BFI Player (Subscription – free trial available!), BFI Player Amazon Channel (Subscription – free trial available!)
Where to watch US: Fandor (Subscription – free trial available!), Kanopy (Subscription), Fandor Amazon Channel (Subscription)
The Burden (Min Börda) (2017) – dir. Niki Lindroth von Bahr
There exists a film where anthropomorphic stop-motion animals sing about hating their jobs in unison on a tiny, floating mass in space. That film is Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s 15-minute musical, The Burden (Min Börda). Set in an isolated town in the middle of the cosmos, the film leads us through the mundane lives of its lonely inhabitants with a series of synchronized songs and dances. Von Bahr taps into the boredom of routine, and the loneliness that arises from being forced to perform and produce for others, day by day, with seemingly no end in sight. The adorably quirky singing animals contrast very well with the overall air of the film, and despite the nihilist tone, The Burden is an incredibly endearing delight.
Where to watch UK: Available to rent here (£3.11)
Where to watch US: Criterion Channel (Subscription – free trial available!), Kanopy (Subscription), Here ($3.99)
Sorry to Bother You (2018) – dir. Boots Riley
No one said climbing the corporate ladder was easy. They also failed to mention that it would be a visceral chaotic, hellish experience that includes a game show called “I got the sh*t kicked out of me” and cocaine that turns you into a horse-person. Boots Riley skillfully details the absurd horrors of corporate jobs, going viral, racial capitalism, and exploitation, all in a bizarre and dreamlike journey of upward mobility. Lakeith Stanfield shines as the lead, (but also, when is he not a fantastic actor?) Cassius Green, and so does Tessa Thompson who plays his girlfriend, confidant and eccentric artist, Detroit. There are layers to this film, which span from David Cross and Patton Oswalt playing Cassius and Mr. _____’s (Omari Hardwick) “white voices”, to Armie Hammer playing a nepotism baby CEO with an enormous amount of generational wealth, and an army of Equesapiens (the horse people in question) who eventually exact their revenge and kill him. Sorry To Bother You is a mind-bending sensation, all with great performances, camerawork and soundtrack to match.
Where to watch UK: Netflix (Subscription – free trial available!), Amazon – £7.99, Google Play – £7.99, YouTube – £7.99
Where to watch US: Hulu (Subscription – free trial available!), Redbox – $2.99, Google Play – $3.99, Amazon $3.99, YouTube $3.99
The Trial (1963) – dir. Orson Welles
When it comes to creating worlds filled with baffling, terrifying bureaucracy, one name sticks out above them all: Franz Kafka. From the gothic horror of The Castle to the absurd genius of Metamorphosis, his works are renowned for capturing the terror of the unknown, even within the banal. Only one figure in cinematic history has ever been able to capture this, and that is Orson Welles with his underseen adaptation of The Trial. Anthony Perkins is perfectly cast as Josef K, a man who is on trial for… well he doesn’t know what, and over the course of two stressful hours we watch as he tries to decipher the hidden codes and rules of the world around him. With Welles’ mastery of gothic cinema, and Kafka’s masterpiece of absurdism as a basis, The Trial is a hidden gem amongst Welles’ illustrious filmography.
Where to watch UK: Amazon – £3.49, Apple – £3.49
Where to watch US: Fandor (Subscription – free trial available!), Kanopy (Subscription), Roku Channel (Free with ads)
Programme Total Cost – £6.60 (including free trials) / Free (including free trials)