By Sara de Waal
Allow me to guess: given that you are browsing around the Azarius website, I think you have an above-average interest in things that expand your consciousness. Enter psychedelics! The purpose of a psychedelic product is to experience an altered consciousness. Natural drugs that influence your perception include peyote, magic mushrooms, or - to a lesser extent - cannabis. Psychedelic films have the same goal: they allow you to experience a different kind of reality. Sometimes the characters in these films are under influence of psychedelics themselves, and their perceptions are represented in distorted images and sounds. Sometimes the film itself is one big trip: an intense, imaginative journey in which rules go overboard and the possibilities are unlimited. Has your appetite for cinematographic psychedelics been fuelled? With these ten films, you can go nuts.
We start in the sixties, the decade in which psychedelics blossomed. Amidst all the wonderful products of these turbulent years, Daisies of the Czech Věra Chytilová is a relatively unknown surrealistic gem. The film breathes protest (and was immediately forbidden by the government) and deals with two young women who throw overboard all conventions, after they have concluded that the world is rotten. Brace yourself for a colourful film full of bizarre scenes.
Yellow Submarine (1968)
This Beatles movie is a film that makes you happy: the cheerful animations, the witty jokes and of course the nice music makes this classic an experience that’s not only a treat for seasoned Beatles fans, but also for anyone who appreciates a visual trip.
Fritz the Cat (1972)
Fritz is a cat who likes to enjoy life by wallowing in sex and drugs. Maybe he has ideals, but ... he would rather not fight for it. In this humoristic persiflage of the protest movements of the sixties, we follow Fritz on his bizarre and trippy adventures.
The Holy Mountain (1973)
This surreal cult film derails instantly. The film is full of symbolism and creatures such as flamboyantly dressed frogs, dwarfs without hands and feet and a pimpy alchemist who turns poo into gold. Just saying. A perfect film if you want to see something very strange. An interesting fact is that the actors of Holy Mountain received months of spiritual training in preparation, and were instructed to consume LSD and magic mushrooms during certain scenes.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
It's hard not to love the Raoul Duke as portrayed by Johnny Depp. Raoul is the Hunter S. Thompson inspired mumbling weirdo who takes an unlikely amount of psychoactive drugs on his journey. The comic scenes, the colourful trip images and the socially critical note have ensured that this dark comic film has a cult status among a large fan base. If you don’t know it yet: a must-see!
The Cell (2000)
For lovers of science fiction and horror: this dark psychedelic film contains not only beautiful imaginative images but also the necessary tension. The Cell has a plot that reminds of psychological thrillers like Silence of the Lambs. Because of the spectacular dream scenes it’s definitely recommended on this list, but I don’t recommend looking at it under the influence of psychoactive substances. It’s a bit too scary for that.
Waking Life (2001)
Waking Life uses a very special technique: images that have been filmed in the real world have been repainted with animation by thirty (!) artists. This double layer fits well with the theme of the film: the (sometimes unclear) difference between dream and reality, and the question of whether the distinction between dream and reality is actually relevant. A beautiful film that provides something to philosophise about.
If, like me, you like a bit of colourful hysteria and excess, Paprika is your film. In this animated film, the theme of dreams and the boundary between dreams and reality is again central. The plot revolves around a machine with which therapists can enter the dreams of patients. Of course this goes drastically wrong when the machine is used illegally. What follows is a dazzling trip.
Enter the Void (2009)
This very hallucinatory film by Gaspar Noé is - not surprisingly – created based of one of his own experiences with psychedelic drugs. In Enter The Void, we follow a young drug dealer as he emerges from his body and floats through the pulsing neon-lit club scene of Tokyo. The plot does, however, have the necessary drama, so don’t watch it if you’re looking for something happy.
Loving Vincent (2017)
We end this list with a visual masterpiece about the life and death of the troubled master Vincent van Gogh. Completely painted in swirling strokes of oil paint, this beautiful animated film does justice to his talent. Moving, breath-taking and unparalleled.