4 Spiritually Resonant Films
Sometime last year, Mitch Horowitz’s interview with David Lynch made its way onto my feed.
I, being a huge fan of both Mitch Horowitz and David Lynch — “The Miracle Club” is one of my favorite books and “Mulholland Drive” is one of my favorite films — read the interview.
It was great! So many unique insights and fascinating ideas.
Really, though, there was one quote, in particular, that stood out to me.
I’m paraphrasing, but David Lynch said that the word “Spirituality”, more than anything else, refers to that which is truthful.
Or, perhaps, “the truth”, if there is, indeed, one ultimate truth.
Soon enough, this lead to me thinking about the spiritual themes, within the context of that definition, found within David Lynch’s work.
And, then, that led to me thinking about the spiritual themes found within films of all sorts.
A few moments later and a list of films popped up, each one spiritually resonant.
Spiritually resonant, in the sense of possessing, and sharing, its own set of truths, all of which are, perhaps, concerned with the greater truths of our existence.
The list of films that came to me was turned into an essay series.
Here is Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
It’s been nearly one-year since I produced that series and, since then, a few more films have come to me.
Each one of these films is, to me, rather unique and obscure — well, two of them are, but one isn’t — which means that you may not have seen them.
My intention is to outline the unique spiritual notions found within these films, as well as what makes these films worth watching.
Really, though, this is just me riffing on a number of spiritual themes, as well as films that resonated with me so very deeply and that, ideally, will resonate with you.
Children Of The Sea
Out of all the films in this list, “Children Of The Sea” is the only one that’s based on a book.
Or, rather, based on a manga, for there is a distinction.
The manga is five volumes, each of which is around 200-pages But, the film is just under 2-hours.
So, naturally, “Children Of The Sea”, while rich and dense and beautiful and lovely — among other qualities — is a very condensed version of the manga.
A condensed version of the manga that remains dense with fascinating spiritual notions.
A young woman named Ruka who meets two boys — “Umi” and “Sora”, who are both, if memory serves, younger than her — who appear to be “children of the sea”.
Soon after meeting these two boys, a number of inexplicable changes begin to occur. Changes that, as is often custom with these types of stories, threaten our very existence on this planet.
Really, though, that’s not what “Children Of The Sea” is about.
Rather, “Children Of The Sea” is a deep dive into a number of spiritual notions, all of which are conveyed through rich colors and delightfully psychedelic images that, despite their somewhat peculiar nature, remain haunting and enchanting, yet remarkably fun.
Some of these spiritual notions include the ways in which we are all connected to one another; the vast, and unknowable, history of ourselves; our possible origins; as well as the ways in which we define ourselves/our world and the limits such definitions must, by their very nature, impose.
None of these are explored in a particularly in-depth manner.
But, they are explored. And, they are engaged with.
For this reason — that, and the fact that “Children Of The Sea” is remarkably underseen — this is a film worth diving into, if you enjoy rich, psychedelic experiences that grapples with something more.
“Something more”, in the sense of the great vastness that is our world and our existence, as well as the sheer unknowability of it all.
The New World
Out of all the filmmakers alive today, Terrence Malick may be the most spiritual.
Or, more specifically, the films of Terrence Malick are some of the most spiritual.
“The New World” is a great illustration of this.
Set in Virginia, in 1607, “The New World” follows Pocahontas as she first encounters the British and, in turn, Captain John Smith and John Rolfe.
None of this is inherently spiritual. But, the way “The New World” conveys Pocahontas’ life, as well as her own way of seeing and experiencing the world, is deeply spiritual.
A collection of long scenes, within the unending beauty of nature, exploring love, transformation, nature, creativity, language; along with a wealth of other, equally divine, themes.
None of these themes are explored in a didactic or expository manner.
Rather, they are conveyed in a manner akin to “visual poetry”, which meshes well with the wonderful music and abundance of rich, lovely sounds.
Each one of those elements goes well with the masterful performances.
Every single one of the performances seen in “The New World” is a delight.
Really, though, the best performance is, unequivocally, Q’orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas.
It’s a cliche that people often use to describe any half-way decent biographical performance, but Q’orianka Kilcher IS Pocahontas!
Really, she is!
Every single element of her performance emanates from some far-off, long lost realm of beauty and magic and grace that’s been lost in the unending cacophony of new languages and definitions and transformations in consciousness, all of which have paved new paths and new roads that, in the end, may serve to further obfuscate not only our own true nature and the infinite riches we emanate from, are a part of, and, perhaps, truly are, but our desire to return to the space and time in which we are truly loved, nurtured, and free.
Or, well, something like that.
Regardless of the specifics, for those reasons, Q’orianka Kilcher’s Pocahontas is easily one of the finest, if not the finest, performances of the 21st century.
Granted, this assessment comes from my very limited experiences in film criticism — all of which are, primarily, of the armchair variety — but, seriously, Kilcher’s performance is pure magic.
Really, though, you can say the same thing for “The New World”, as a whole.
Every frame is soaked with a beauty that awakens something beyond words.
None of this beauty is confined or defined to a single set of interpretations.
Rather, each and every image is open to interpretation, speaking to you in a unique way.
Since this is the case, “The New World” served as a deeply spiritual experience.
My hope is that this is the case for you, as well.
Hana & Alice
Released in 2004, and directed by Shunji Iwai, “Hana & Alice” is the story of two teenage girls named — just as you might expect — “Hana” and “Alice”.
The story is simple: one day Hana witnesses her crush — a boy named “Masashi — hit his head. Right then and there, Hana begins telling the slightly-delirious Masashi that she is his girlfriend and that, since he doesn’t remember this, he is experiencing severe memory loss.
Sounds like a lot of fun, right? But, it probably doesn’t sound very spiritual, right?
For a time, that was my impression, as well.
Soon after viewing the film, and taking notes, the spiritual themes began to unveil themselves.
Stories are the essence of who we are and, in turn, what we experience.
Stories serve to define us and our role in life.
Stories serve to define the paths in front of us and the paths we engage with.
Stories serve to define the destiny we pursue/the destiny we feel we are capable of pursuing.
Stories are, more than anything else, that which defines the world we live in and the vague fraction of the infinite possibilities available to us within our world.
And yet, in the end, a story is just that; a story.
Every story exists as a creation.
A malleable creation that can — and, perhaps, should — be rewritten.
Stories are malleable and, as such, so are we.
For we are our stories and our lives are stories and our world is a sea of stories.
Our world is, at this moment, merely what we are familiar with. And, since this is the case, we are, in the end, merely who we’ve grown accustomed to being, just as the paths in front of us are merely those we’ve grown accustomed to accepting and pursuing.
Rather than being confined to that which is familiar, we are limitless and, within the state of playful storytelling, capable of creating a truly infinite number of wonderful stories.
Wonderful stories that bring forth the infinite abundance of the world, our endless possibilities, the neverending delights of life; and so on and so forth, endlessly and infinitely; ad infinitum.
The spiritual truths within “Hana & Alice” are rich and multifaceted.
Rich and multifaceted, yet, primarily, rooted in storytelling and play.
Or, perhaps, “playful storytelling”.
Playful storytelling as an empowering act that serves to bring us into the experience of the infinite wonders and gifts and opportunities and blessings — and so on and so forth, endlessly and infinitely; ad infinitum — of our true nature and the world we belong to.
Just look at Hana, and the way she plays with identity and context, bringing forth new identities and personal traits with remarkable ease.
Or, look at Alice and the way she adds onto Hana’s improvisatory play, bringing new layers into Hana’s story, whilst strengthening her own sense of self-expression and personal creativity.
You can, by watching “Hana & Alice”, learn a lot about a lot of things.
You can learn a lot about being a good friend.
You can learn a lot about being kind to one another.
You can learn a lot about being open to the world.
You can learn a lot about creating your own path.
You can learn a lot about trusting in yourself.
You can learn a lot about honesty.
You can learn a lot about love and connection.
You can also learn a lot about the transformative power of storytelling and play.
And, of course, you can also have a lot of fun. For, even though “Hana & Alice” is a rich, dense work, it’s also silly and playful in the same ways that our two protagonists happen to be.
August In The Water
My first experience with “August In The Water” was in late November of 2021.
I liked it. I liked it a lot.
But, at the same time, I didn’t.
“August In The Water” made me very uncomfortable.
You won’t find any sex or violence in the film. So, that’s not why “August In The Water” made me uncomfortable.
Rather, every frame of “August In The Water” is submerged within this vague, haunting ambience that only becomes more and more overwhelming as the film progresses.
A vague, haunting ambience that, when combined with meticulous sound design and acting that is both wooden and naturalistic, makes for a film unlike any other.
All of this is further enhanced by the film’s setting.
On the surface, the film’s version of “Fukuoka” is identical to the real thing.
Or, perhaps, the real thing, as it was in 1995.
Slowly, though, the unreal nature of the city — and our world — is revealed, culminating in an ending that is beautifully life-affirming and, when considered, genuinely terrifying.
To create this world, “August In The Water” tells the story of a teenage diving champion named Izumi who experiences an accident during a diving competition.
The specifics of this accident, and what follows, are best left unsaid.
But, what can be said is that “August In The Water” tells this story in a patient manner, focusing far more on building an ambience and engaging with certain themes, than getting to the end.
Some of these themes include reincarnation, history, other worlds, and other beings.
Each one of these themes is submerged within images that engage with the notion that something is fundamentally wrong and that we are insignificant, yet so very loved, in ways that are both beautiful and inconceivable, lovely and painful.
And all of these images culminated in an experience of a world rooted in conceptual frameworks that are themselves rooted in perceptual modalities lost to the infinite cacophonies of memory and dream, intertwined amongst invisible longings and unconscious lives.
Or, at least, something like that.
Really, it’s difficult to describe, and engage with, “August In The Water”.
And yet, there is so much to dive into, so much to enjoy, so much to experience.
I’m not sure if I will rewatch the film anytime soon, though.
The ambience and mood of the film unnerved me and, while it’s images and themes compel and resonate, there’s something unsettling about the entire experience.
Regardless of my thoughts, though, if you want something truly obscure, yet absolutely divine, then “August In The Water” is absolutely worth watching.
My intentions for this piece were greater than the final product you just finished reading.
Rather, my intention was to create a beautiful, evocative piece that truly conveyed my love and appreciation for these films, as well as the riches they contain.
Something tells me this intention did not quite come to fruition.
Or, at least, that doesn’t seem to be the case, on my end.
You may feel differently. And, if you do — or, even if you don’t — thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this piece.
Thank you so much!
As always, if you want to reach me, you can do so at “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
Best wishes, and have a lovely day!