Images of the Decade

We poll our critics to pick a memorable image from a memorable film with which to remember the decade.
Notebook
Movies are made up of images, even the bad ones. But the bad movies rarely leave any images lingering in your brain. The great films are the ones making great images. A great image is many things, by nature diffuse, and we might agree that any great image moves even when stopped still, opening its own cinematic world. Thus, the Notebook's decision to celebrate our recent decade not with a list but with this stream. Each contributor was asked to pick one film he or she wants to remember from the 2010s, select one image from that film to remember it by, and write one sentence to supplement their selection. Last decade (yes, we've been doing this for over ten years!), we split the selection between images and words. This decade, for simplicity's sake, we are combining the two for your browsing pleasure. We hope you enjoy.
FLORENCE SCOTT-ANDERTON
Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
"What a strange girl you are, flung out of space."
JENNY BARKER
Night Is Short, Walk on Girl (Masaaki Yuasa, 2017)
The Old Capital
Young girl in a sea of books
A subversive dream
GUSTAVO BECK
Visita ou Memórias e Confissões (Manuel de Oliveira, 1982 - 2015)
A family album in motion.
ABBEY BENDER
Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)
Sickly sweet pastels, girls, guns, commodity fetishism—Spring Breakers has it all, and feels prescient about the "influencer" era, while creating a singular look that's among the most memorable of the decade. 
PEDRO EMILIO SEGURA BERNAL
Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015)
It's been four years since I contemplated this image for the first time and I still have no idea about what's happening there—still, I know this single shot contains an idea on everything that's okay with cinema... and probably in life. What is it?  As Jenjira says in my favorite line of the film, "You won’t get it, honey."
SUSANA BESSA
No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015)
For four minutes, Chantal records wild gusts of wind battering a tree in the Israeli desert by pushing the limits of the digitalness of the device she's using, and which her hands steadily grip: for four minutes, wind is endless, empty space voluble and the filmmaker's body determined to withstand the weather and remain still, a step back from where the lens is looking at, in a place free of walls, assembling one of the most accurate representations of her search for where to belong to. 
JOE BRENNAN
Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, 2011)
A flash of cold clarity in a film that’s otherwise sticky, smothering and, at times, unbearably humid.
JOSH CABRITA
A Hidden Life (Malick, 2019)
Gilles Deleuze once argued that Godard could “film Spinoza’s Ethics”; in this moment (one of the most transformative uses of text in all cinema), Malick brings us closer to achieving this likely impossible ideal.
FORREST CARDAMENIS
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
Childhood, waxing and waning before our eyes like shadows, immortalized on the silver screen.
HENRI DE CORINTH
House of Tolerance (Bertrand Bonello, 2011)
"I am the empire at the end of its decadence."
—Paul Verlaine 
GREG CWIK
The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
“Do your failures bother you?”
MARC SAINT-CYR
Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015)
Because we shouldn’t underestimate the power of an unflinching gaze, nor the necessity of directing it towards those concerns—historical, humanitarian—that need our attention the most.
YARON DAHAN
The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
Joaquin Phoenix: The face that eats the screen.
LAURA DAVIS
Dear Babylon (Ayo Akingbade, 2019)
A glimmer of hope at a time when our politicians have left us more in the dark than ever.
FLAVIA DIMA
La Flor, Part 5 (Mariano Llinas, 2019)
135 years in 14 hours and the faces of four women; yet one single image to beg the question: who would have thought the sight of airplanes would make one cry uncontrollably?
KELLEY DONG
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
"Call it not a memory, but a premonition."
—Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End
SARA FREEMAN
The Heat (Paul Feig, 2013)
Melissa McCarthy grabbed the 2010s by the (tiny tic tac) balls and watching her push men around and bulldoze her way through life brought a lot of cinematic joy to the last decade.
CELLULOID LIBERATION FRONT
Gli uomini di questa città io non li conosco (Franco Maresco, 2015)
The barrel is bottomless but we keep scraping it.
CADEN M. GARDNER
Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
Inherent Vice is a labyrinthine series of ghost stories that are best evoked in its alluring, hazy crossfades by Robert Elswit: death of the hippie movement, the history of displaced people in Los Angeles whether they are racial minorities or missing millionaire realtors, how people change beyond recognition due to the changing times or the need to reinvent themselves to survive that they shed their old skin and beliefs, the cyclical nature of control that dates back to the Red Scare of "The Powers That Be" needing to have an enemy that they can only create their nightmares, or the most haunting image of all: your lost love.
SEAN GILMAN
The Midnight After (Fruit Chan, 2014)
"I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do”
LEONARDO GOI
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
—Job 38: 4,7
DUNCAN GRAY
Mysteries of Lisbon, TV series, episode 6 (Raúl Ruiz, 2010)
To start a decade, or to finish one, the life stories of Raúl Ruiz's masterful epic branch out and bloom before returning to the end of the beginning: a night in your youth when it seemed for one feverish moment that when you woke up, everything would be explained.
GLENN HEATH JR.
This is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi, 2011)
Thinking outside the box inside the box, and doing it with a joyful smile of resistance and protest. 
PATRICK HOLZAPFEL
No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015)
"The light is an excess of too many things that are too far away."
—Alejandra Pizarnik
CHRISTOPH HUBER
Polizeiruf 110: Die Lüge, die wir Zukunft nennen (Dominik Graf, 2019)
Another decade down the drain.
DAVID HUDSON
The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
Fear and despair give way to acquiescence as the final flame flickers out.
DARREN HUGHES
The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zurcher, 2014)
The best debut of the decade is a sui generis chamber piece that finds magic in the commonplace—a welcome reprieve from the fucking zeitgeist.
DEMITRA KAMPAKIS
Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)
An eerily transfixing embodiment of nature’s synergistic flux—in these existentially precarious times, it’s comforting to remember the cyclical symbiosis of all organic life; to see death not with finality, but merely as dissolution of the physical self, and an opportunity for metamorphosis.
DANIEL KASMAN
Monument Film (Peter Kubelka, 2012)
In the year that heralded the broad transition of cinema from a celluloid experience to a digital one, Peter Kubelka revisited his classic Arnulf Rainer to create its exact celluloid opposite, Antiphon—which inverts the original's black frames to transparent ones and transparent to black—and showed them together as Monument Film, projected on a special device, first one, then the other, then side by side in marvelous frame-by-frame sync, and finally on top of one another: celluloid projecting all colors and no colors, observing its own inversion, then absorbing all of the world back into itself.
RYLAND WALKER KNIGHT
Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg, 2012)
A film that saw the future in the present, prefiguring the monopoly money acquisition of "the real" and upping the Occupy ante with rat props.
BEATRICE LOAYZA
Black Coal, Thin Ice (Diao Yinan, 2014)
Five years pass until we emerge from the other side of the tunnel.
Snow suspends markers and barriers; pavement blends with grass, lanes
lose their painted signage. Time and signification enter a period of
lawlessness, fertile for mischief.
CRISTINA ÁLVAREZ LÓPEZ
Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz, 2010)
The space-time warp located at the impossible ending of a delirium streaming across the corridors of the theatre that is one's own history.
SOFIE CATO MAAS
Lovecraftland (Edgar Pêra, 2018/2019)
Edgar Pêra’s Lovecraftland is the embodiment of uncertainty, as it is always changing, developing and growing—creating an interplay between different mediums to restructure the world within his artistic vision, that is characterized by his versatility and "neuro-punk" sensibility.
WILLOW MACLAY
Support the Girls (Andrew Bujalski, 2018)
In unprecedented times it is necessary to remember that cinema is the representation of us, and we're all we've got.
ADRIAN MARTIN
The Traitor (Marco Bellocchio, 2019)
A sleeping dog is the sole companion to a man who is about to meet his long deferred fate: the unforgettable final scene of Marco Bellocchio's The Traitor.
AIKO MASUBUCHI
Seven Weeks (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 2014)
Nobuhiko Obayashi's self-professed "cinema Guernica" is the second in his post-Fukushima trilogy that weaves the past and present towards a future, in a way that only this singular visionary can pull off.
ROSS MCDONNELL
Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2015)
The rhythm which projects
from itself continuity
bending all to its force
from window to door,
from ceiling to floor,
light at the opening,
dark at the closing.
—from Robert Creeley's poem "The Rhythm"
DAVE MCDOUGALL
Kommunisten (Jean-Marie Straub, 2014)
Jean-Marie Straub's Kommunisten is an implicit history of one of cinema's greatest love stories; a tender tribute to a partner and comrade now gone; a summary and continuation of two lives' work; and a love letter, to Danièle, and to the new world she wanted to see come into being.
OLAF MÖLLER
Untitled (Monika Willi, Michael Glawogger, 2017)
Sayonara dake ga jinsei da, thus: See you down the road a piece.
EVAN MORGAN
Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 (Johnnie To, 2014)
Three years later, ten years later, it makes little difference; we remain, tragically, ourselves.
BEN R. NICHOLSON
Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2017)
“Obviously, we live on screens... the most important and dramatic events are happening on screen.”
—Timur Bekmambetov
SAVINA PETKOVA
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)
We’re knocking on metamorphosis’ door, where man becomes animal.
THOMAS QUIST
Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016)
A Christmas dinner off-screen, a woman (Isabelle Huppert) attends to her newborn grandchild at the frame’s edge as “Unchained Melody” by The Fleetwoods hums over credits—the final shot of Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things to Comefulfills the promise of great cinema where the complexity of an image can momentarily halt the flow of time or, as the song goes: “Time goes by so slowly / And time can do so much.”
JONATHAN ROSENBAUM
Flannery (Marco Bosco & Elizabeth Coffman, 2019)
An illustrated dramatizing of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” in Mark Bosco and Elizabeth Coffman’s exceptional Flannery, which does a lot with literary nuance.
DAN SALLITT
The Day After (Hong Sang-soo, 2017)
Kim Min-hee and the spectator both turn a corner and discover the concept of the film in a single image.
JAMES SLAYMAKER
Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, 2010) 
The inertia of contemporary neoliberal Europe placed in dialogue with the grandest revolutionary moment of the 20th century; by evoking Eisenstein’s iconic Odessa steps sequence within his own ground-breaking work of political filmmaking, Godard questions how the affordances of digital technologies may be used to pioneer a radical form of intellectual montage through which he may express resistance to the hegemony of late-stage capitalism.
ELISSA SUH
A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies, 2016)
"If we reach into the silence we cannot be afraid. For where there is nothing, there is God."
SCOUT TAFOYA
Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016)
The only way forward is the destruction of the organism, melding with primordial, biological unknowns if need be, and cutting out our ego like a cancerous cyst.
MATT TURNER
"Sometimes you have to lie to tell the truth."
KEITH UHLICH
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (Jonathan Demme, 2016)
Gone—never forgotten.
CARLOS VALLADARES
Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016)
Reichardt, Gladstone, and Blauvelt create the ultimate image of alienation for this most alienating decade; love arrested, not a word exchanged, but the filmmakers' unsentimental commitment to movement, duration, and a heartsick lonely drive back home is some kind of a beacon of hope.
JASON WOOD
Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014)
A complex film about tradition and change, Timbuktu is incredibly eloquent on the subject of violence and how it acts as a catalyst for more violence.
NEIL YOUNG
Psychic Driving (William E Jones, 2014)
"They call Trump because he’s always on the tweet, but what’s Obama doing tweeting the BBC at fucking 3 o’clock?”
—Mark E. Smith (1957-2018), 2017

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Notebook is a daily, international film publication. Our mission is to guide film lovers searching, lost or adrift in an overwhelming sea of content. We offer text, images, sounds and video as critical maps, passways and illuminations to the worlds of contemporary and classic film. Notebook is a MUBI publication.

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