Film Friday: Art and Obsession

Fancy Footwork | The New Yorker

For this week’s Film Friday, we’re presenting 5 movies that explore the intersection between art and obsession, including this author’s personal favorite and a new movie that just came out recently. Caution: these movies deal with mature content, and many of them are R-rated, so viewer discretion is advised!

Black Swan

Black Swan is a beautiful and terrifying film about the dangers of chasing perfection. It follows Nina, a ballerina with the New York City Ballet, as she receives the role of a lifetime: playing both the Black Swan and the White Swan in Swan Lake. The more she tries to be perfect, the more she loses her grip on reality. This film will leave you wondering what was real and what was just a figment of Nina’s overactive imagination.

Image Credit: Rotten Tomatoes


The drums have never been this violent. Miles Teller stars as Andrew Neiman, a young jazz student in a New York music conservatory, and JK Simmons stars as Terence Fletcher, his abusive, obsessive teacher who pushes him to the very edge and changes his life forever. Although it’s not really an accurate representation of the jazz music scene, it’s still a fantastic film, and its portrayal of power abuse, manipulation and musical perfection is remarkable. The end of the film is open to interpretation, it’s not quite happy, not quite sad, but a fantastic drum performance nonetheless.

Image Credit: New Yorker

The Menu

The Menu just came out, and it’s a must watch! A strange sense of solidarity arises when watching this in a theatre- everyone laughs at the same silly rich people, and how the movie pokes fun at foodie culture, and then slowly get more and more disturbed as the more sinister undertones are revealed. A fictional restaurant on an isolated island aims for the perfect meal, but the Chef has more up his sleeve than just hors d’oeuvres, since everything isn’t quite what it seems. Anya Taylor Joy and Ralph Fiennes are irresistably fun in this movie, I would highly recommend seeing it soon!

Image credit: IMDB

La La Land

La La Land isn’t exactly about obsession with artistic perfection, but it is about two lost artists and what they have to sacrifice. Directed by Damien Chazelle (remember Whiplash?), it explores the conflict between love and our careers. Apart from being a beautiful ode to Old Hollywood, La La Land has a stellar soundtrack (despite the stars’ subpar singing) and amazing choreography. If you haven’t already seen it, it chronicles the love story of actress Mia and jazz musician Sebastian as they struggle in Los Angeles to “make it big” in the industry. Although it feels like an homage to cinema of the past, it’s still relevant, and the ending only proves that it’s more realistic than most films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s also filmed beautifully, and every aspect of the set, production and costumes is stunning.

Image credit: The Atlantic

The Prestige

The Prestige: magic, Victorian London, bitter rivalries, and… Nikola Tesla? Christopher Nolan weaves an intricate story set up like a magic trick, with a big reveal at the very end, that warns us of the pitfalls of pride and obsession. It’s a fictional story based on the art of magic that was massively popular in London centuries ago, and the entire film feels like a sleight of hand- we aren’t quite sure what’s happening or how it’s happening until the trick is over and all is revealed. Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, and Hugh Jackman’s acting all adds too the eerie atmosphere shrouded in mystery and full of intrigue.

Image Credit: The Observer

by Meera Shroff Feldman

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