I know, it’s a Sisyphean task in itself: trying to list every movie that has something in common with the myth of Sisyphus.
- useless struggles
- absurd situations without hope
- eternal return
- no escape possible
- pointless punishments
- an endless task
- a neverending story
This myth has many aspects. The more the movie has in common with the situation of Sisyphus, the higher I will rank it on the list, which you can watch here: http://mubi.com/lists/19451
You, fellow Sisyphean moviewatchers, can help to make this list endless.
The number one on my list! Thanks Matt for putting it here.
LA JETÉE – Chris Marker – France 1962
A Serious Man, maybe?
Would that be along the lines of what you were talking about? That’s what came to mind when I was watching it anyway.
Also, in some ways, La Moustache
The Stranger Luchino ViscontiWoman in the Dunes Hiroshi TeshigaharaMan Push Cart Ramin BahraniThe Green Ray Eric RohmerAlmanac of Fall Bela Tarr
Every Antonioni film AntonioniSongs from the Second Floor AnderssonHarakiri KobayashiThe Second Circle Sokurov[Safe] HaynesOn the Silver Globe ZulawskiStalker TarkovskyElephant Van SantEnter the Void NoéThere Will Be Blood AndersonNobody Knows KoreedaThe Baby of Macon GreenawayA Short Film About Killing KieslowskiBeing John Malkovich JonzeLola FassbinderLa Haine KassovitzThe Fountain Aronofsky
All of you thanks for the great suggestions.
I agree immediately with LA JETÉE, A SERIOUS MAN, WOMAN IN THE DUNES, SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR (also Andersson’s YOU THE LIVING and others – his universe feels very Sisyphean.). Also THE STRANGER and Antonioni’s THE PASSENGER.
I’ll have to watch, re-watch and think about the others. I have my doubts about Tarkovsky because there’s always a religious undertone. I love his films and those of Sokurov, but the Sisyphean world is one without religious hopes. The Sisyphean hero struggles with his fate which he defies and accepts at the same time.
-Sisyphus – Jankovics Marcell
-The Music Box – James Parrott
-The Hill – Sidney Lumet
-Triangle – Christopher Smith
-La Jetée – Chris Marker
-Fitzcarraldo – Werner Herzog
-Woman in the Dunes – Hiroshi Teshigahara
-Groundhog Day – Harold Ramis
-Copy Shop – Virgil Widrich
-Moon – Duncan Jones
-Metropolis – Fritz Lang
-The Wages of Fear – Henri-Georges Clouzot
-The Swimmer – Frank Perry
-Songs from the Second Floor – Roy Andersson
-You the Living – Roy Andersson
-Man on wire – James Marsh
-Lost Highway – David Lynch
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Michel Gondry
-After Hours – Martin Scorsese
-The Stranger – Luchino Visconti
-The Passenger – Michelangelo Antonioni
-The Castle – Michael Haneke
-The Trial – Orson Welles
-A Serious Man – Coens
-The Roundup – Miklos Jancso
-Werckmeister Harmonies – Béla Tarr
-Synecdoche, New York – Charlie Kaufman
-Mr. Nobody – Jaco van Dormael
-Last Year at Marienbad – Alain Resnais
-Memento – Christopher Nolan
-Taxi Driver – Martin Scorsese
-Vertigo – Alfred Hitchcock
-Aaltra – Gustave de Kervern
-The Mission – Roland Joffé
Run Lola Run
The Exterminating Angel
Twelve Monkeys, of course.
FAST AND FURRY-OUS — Chuck Jones.
DUCK AMUCK — Chuck Jones
Most of these examples don’t reflect the labor in Sisyphus: La Libertad (Lisandro Alonso)
Here I point out a parallel in the opening scene of Wanda.
I suddenly remembered RUN LOLA RUN, but I’m too late. M° you seem to read my thoughts.
THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, TWELVE MONKEYS. Great to see all these diverse movies come together here. And the Coyote indeed has a lot in common with Sisyphus. I would never have thought about it.
What about THEY SHOOT HORSES DON’T THEY? and THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY.
I found some inspiration in this list: ABSURDITY IN CINEMA (http://mubi.com/lists/14053)THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE. (never gets what he wants)
-DR. STRANGELOVE… (remember the last images with the song “We’ll meet again…”)
-ERASERHEAD (Beginning and end meet in some way it can start all over again)
-Tati belongs in the Sisyphus-world with for example PLAYTIME
I have my doubts about Tarkovsky because there’s always a religious undertone. I love his films and those of Sokurov, but the Sisyphean world is one without religious hopes.
Yeah, but Sisyphus was punished by the gods, so saying that religion can’t be intertwined is pretty silly. Stalker is a meandering quest for a goal that, once they reach the precipice of, they are incapable of carrying through with. If this is not Sisyphean then I don’t know what is.
The Second Circle is probably the most applicable film of the bunch. Absolute unrelenting torment. The experience of Sisyphus distilled viscerally.
Being John Malkovich is almost a direct parallel to Sisyphus as the protagonist is essentially punished for his misdeeds in a manner where he is able to see the object of his affection but never able to attain it. Again, the definition of Sisyphean.
Fassbinder’s Lola involves a man struggling against the corruption around him and struggling to make any headway. His task is a Sisyphean one. That it is a comedy means that his struggle relents once he gives up his task, but there’s nothing wrong with a comedic spin on the Sisyphean struggle, is there?
The Fountain shows a Sisyphean struggle against death, La Haine shows a Sisyphean struggle against the corrupting forces of society, Enter the Void is the epitome of an ‘eternal return’ and pretty well captures a miserablist struggle against self, society, and death, Nobody Knows shows a group of children abandoned by their (mother, gods) with a seemingly impossible task (to remain together and survive in an unknowing urban jungle) thrust upon them, etc.
If you don’t see the Sisyphean relationship then you’re not trying. I think many of your selections are rather weak, especially by those standards you dismiss others by, but whatever.
I appreciate your comments LEAVES, but I hope you’ll understand that when your suggestions don’t appear in my list immediately, this doesn’t mean I dismiss them. Who am I to dismiss? Everyone is free to make his own selections.
You’re absolutely right about BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, but I haven’t seen all the films in the world yet so give me some time. Your films will stimulate me to see Safe, On the Silver Globe, Enter the Void, Nobody Knows, Lola and The Baby of Macon. That’s what I like about this site: discovering interesting movies I haven’t seen yet.
You still haven’t convinced me about STALKER and THE FOUNTAIN though and I don’t think I’m silly if I have my doubts about the Sisyphean quality of stories about mystical journeys which suggest some kind of hope beyond the here and now. The fact that in the myth Sisyphus was punished by gods doesn’t alter the godless interpretation of his hopeless situation as the modern human condition of continuing its absurd struggle with life day after day after day knowing death will make a pointless end to it.
A fair comment JERRY JOHNSON. I’ll have to add more films about daily labor like LIBERTAD.
The documentary WORKINGMAN’S DEATH (Michael Glawogger, 2005). Also ROSETTA (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, 1999), LA VIE RÊVÉE DES ANGES (Erick Zonca, 1998), L’EMPLOI DU TEMPS (Laurent Cantet, 2001) – which can be seen as Sisyphus’ failing attempt to have a time out.
A Serious Man is a good one.
From the top of my head: Two-Lane Blacktop, Pierrot Le Fou, Stranger than Paradise
Au Revoir Les Enfants
Paths of Glory
The brilliant short film ATRAKSION (Raoul Servais, 2001).
Watch it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioONlKCFLkg
The Coen universe is a Sisyphus universe.
In a Sisyphus interpretation of THE BIG LEBOWSKI the bowling Dude is the rock pushing Sisyphus. The rock rolls down the mountain, the bowling ball rolls back to its starting point.
In BARTON FINK Sisyphus is condemned to push his screenplays in front of producers who’ll keep turning it down.
Then there’s ‘Modern Man’ Ed in THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE, Sisyphus with scissors, condemned to cut human hair that keeps coming back.
Re/Trato Oscar Muñoz