Fear is what can make a man to stop moving and breathing “The greatest fear of people is not to die, it is to speak in public”; This sentence of Ridley Scott’s famous American Gangster makes us immediately understand that there are so many fears and phobias we carry on, since we were born and they are there and they manifest in different ways. Cinema has always had the ability to be able to represent what in nature is not representable: feelings, emotions, fears. But what are the films that speak about fears and phobias?
Antichrist, Lars Von Trier, 2009
Cinema as the psychoanalyst’s couch, as an relief of fears. In this Danish director’s film, presented at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, the fear and the phobia are told with extreme mastery: When a son dies by jumping out from the window while the parents are making love their life will never be the same. Secrets got uncovered at the end of the film and it’s when it turns scary. The film is experienced as a harmful nightmare from which it is difficult to wake up, the most common mistake that can be done is to consider it as a horror film and that’s it: it’s more like a journey, a journey through the minds of two individuals who react differently to a misfortune such as the loss of their child.
Mulholland drive, David Lynch, 2001
Presages of a visual and sensorial experience, a journey into the unconscious of the protagonists but also of ourselves. Mulholland goes beyond simple cinema, it is the reincarnation of dream and fear. Everything we see is not as it seems and in every frame, in every sequence, we are always less certain of what we are seeing. Lynch has in all his films, but especially in this, is the ability to narrate what goes beyond the screen and to grasp the phobias of the characters up to raise them to the maximum. Are we sleeping or are we awake? Is a nightmare or is it pure reality? The work of the American director does not fully answer these questions but certainly helps to think about it.
What About Bob?, Frank Oz, 1991
It would seem the classic plot in which a therapist treats a phobic patient, but the plot of the film soon moves on to other themes: with caricatured tones it represents the violation of the doctor-patient relationship. Starring Bill Murray, first the neurotic Bob with all sorts of imaginable and imaginable phobias sticks like a magnet to his psychotherapist, Dr. Marvin, destroying their relationships with their children and wife. A comedy with an apparently trivial plot but which grasps the problem of neurosis in a different and not too serious way as we are used to films of this kind.
Panic Room, David Fincher, 2002
The film by the American director highlights one of the most classic phobias: claustrophobia. Fincher’s work, in his classic style that includes references and continuous distortions of intertwining, leads to exasperation the claustrophobic experience of the protagonists that also affects the audience. An apparent refuge from an external evil turns into a trap for Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and his daughter Sarah who will find themselves without exit and without the possibility of communicate with the outside. Fincher manages to convey a tension that only a skilled director of the thriller as him and his ability to capture the attention of the audience.
El ángel exterminador, Luis Bunuel, 1962
It is certainly one of the masterpieces of the Spanish master, has a very simple plot and is useful for delving into the psychology of bourgeois society of which the director wants to underline the phobia of the restrictions that this type of society implies. The phobia turns into neurosis when after the theater show a high-class family invites guests in their palace for a dinner, inside the house unusual events begin to happen and the protagonists will be forced to go beyond their bourgeois and limited dictates . “We must not abandon human dignity and turn us into beasts” with this sentence comes out all the irrationality that the characters are facing abandoning all their rules. The film, however, is still linked to the poetics of Bunuel full of its symbolism and images that acquire a meaning that goes beyond the superficial image.
M – Il mostro di Düsseldorf, Fritz Lang, 1931
A serial killer wanders the streets of Düsseldorf by sowing panic among the citizens, the victims are little girls unable to understand what happens. In the film of the German filmmaker a series of murders get the city into a panic, fear becomes phobia when the murders do not seem to cease and hysteria hits the population until the end of the film. In this expressionist work Lang makes a masterful use of sound (especially in the first sequence). The construction of the phobic part of the director ensures that this work is still one of the darkest films in the history of cinema. In the final sequence it is palpable the will of Fritz Lang to give a moral and pedagogical sense to the whole film far ahead of its times.