18 Unforgettable Single Frames From 2014
It’s almost the end of 2014, and by now people must be getting real sick of all the Year End articles, listing out the Best films, the Worst films, the Best Scenes, the Most Overrated, Underrated, etc. etc. It’s December, after all, when the entire film writing community seems to funnel out the same exact articles in various shades. But, as I’ve said in my own Top 20 feature, which you can now read on The Playlist, these lists are necessary for critics to get the word out about themselves and their peculiar tastes. Even ranking “Boyhood” as number 1 or number 8 tells you something different about that individual.
Anywho, some of the year’s greatest year-end articles for me are the ones that tend to delve into the art of film a little more through shots (examples include The Playlist’s Top 12 Shots of the Year, The Dissolve’s Shot of the Year, Kris Tapley’s 10 Shots of the Year – even though I begrudgingly add that last one since I’m not a fan of his self-stroking style). Considering this, I thought I’d churn out my final list before the year closes. It’s one that I’ve had great pleasure thinking about and compiling, because these frames (whether I liked the overall film or not) stuck with me, stunned me, and struck me with awe. Whether it’s because of their sheer aesthetic beauty, the weight of their emotional baggage, or all of the above, these single frames lingered on long after the final credits rolled and are truly, in every sense of the word, unforgettable.
Jump the cut to see why movies are paintings in disguise.
18. Rooftop Punks – “We Are The Best!” (dir. Lukas Moodyson, dp. Ulf Brantås)
Didn’t much care for Moodyson’s pre-teenage one-note twee-fest (you can read why here), but this moment on the roof was sublime. Rebellious youth hugging it out with Sweden’s snow in the background; two innocent punks keep each other warm from all the coldness they feel in the adult world. Infinitely sweet.
17. Age vs. Youth – “Manakamana” (dir. Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, dp. Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez)
It’s No. 20 on my Top 20 films of the year, and this opening cable car ride (which also became the featured image for the film’s poster), is one of my favourites. The two don’t say a single word to each other, and the moment when they both look towards one another’s direction encapsulates so much cultural fury it’s likely the single most loudest silent moment of the year.
16. Monster Landscape – “Leviathan” (dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev, dp. Mikhail Krichman)
From No. 20 to No. 1, Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” is my kind of film from start to finish. Beyond the expertly orchestrated story of a falling man, is the cinematography of Mikhail Krichman that’s not talked about nearly enough. This image, among a plethora of others, channels the gloomy mood and the motif of merciless nature in a serendipitous image of reflection that calls to mind the Biblical monster itself.
15. The Eyes, They See – “A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness” (dir. Ben Rivers & Ben Russell, dp. Ben Rivers & Ben Russell)
Charlotte Brontë writes “The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter – in the eye” in her “Jane Eyre,” and watching “A Spell To Ward Off the Darkness” you know it to be true. Robert A.A. Lowe is the vessel for Rivers and Russell to explore the ubiquity of human existence, and this supreme close up of his eyes as he watches a house burn (on the big screen, you see the burning house in his eyes) is haunting stuff.
14. Two Girls, One Train – “Nymphomaniac” (dir. Lars von Trier, dp. Manuel Alberto Claro)
Lars von Trier’s devilish playfulness comes out in full force in the fist Volume for his expertly told “Nymphomaniac,” and the train sequence where Stacy Martin‘s Joe and Sophie Kennedy Clark‘s B play a game where they entice various strangers to have sex with them, all for some candy, is a perfect metaphor on raging hormones. This frame-within-a-frame is an expertly captured moment of the distortion and the beauty that’s found throughout the film.
13. J.M.W. Would Be Proud – “Mr. Turner” (dir. Mike Leigh, dp. Dick Pope)
Mike Leigh and his DP Dick Pope went out of their way to pay homage to the great British painter, J.M.W. Turner. The most noticeable way they did this is with the wide shots of the landscapes and seascapes, and there is perhaps no better example of this then the frame here. Digitalized, sure, but it rarely gets this gorgeous at the movies. If Turner made postcards, this is what they’d look like.
12. Under The Lake – “Borgman” (dir. Alex van Warmerdam, dp. Tom Erisman)
Bizarre, frightening, effectively surreal and evil, Warmerdam’s “Borgman” is all these things and more. It’s all in the journey with this one, and here’s the moment that made me realize I won’t see any film like it all year. Borgman’s victims are – quite originally – hidden from sight by having their heads placed in buckets of concrete and thrown into the lake. Words like “hypnagogic” were made for frames like this.