Culture Movies

The most depressing films from Bergman to Brocka

Lourd de Veyra's prescriptions should you want to throw yourself into rainy day despair courtesy of great cinema.
Lourd de Veyra | Sep 11 2018

Pop culture has always painted portraits of the saddest human beings under melancholic shrouds of rain: the lonely detective walking the dark cobblestone streets, the abandoned lover in the gossamer gown that sticks to her skin, the frightened soldier in the muddy rice paddies. There is a technique in psychology where the depressed patient is treated with sorrow-causing stimuli until the associated anxiety disappears. And it is no accident that the term is called "flooding." Sort of like fighting a hangover by drinking more shots of vodka. So, in the interest of emotional health, we present a list of films to watch should you choose to wallow deeper into the season's damp despair.


Cries and Whispers (1973)

Ingmar Bergman

Three women, a huge mysterious house, ponderous meditations on life and death, and, gasp, subtitles. Which may or may not explain the high suicide rates in Sweden. No matter how hardcore an art-film fan you are, you will want to watch High School Musical after this.


McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)

Robert Altman

At the onset of the bleakest winter, an American Midwest in the period of reconstruction. A Leonard Cohen song aptly broods over the opening credit sequence. Depressingly beautiful pines capes and tired frontiersmen huddling nightly over gas lamps. An unshaven Warren Beatty does business while Julie Christie is a brothel madam— both doomed figures set against a hostile landscape made more sinister by the evil that men do.


The Lost Weekend (1945)

Billy Wilder

The hero is a wannabe novelist whose alcohol habit has gone so out of control that he hides his booze by hanging bottles out of his apartment window. Not even a concerned brother and a caring girlfriend can seem to help, as he spirals into a liquor-induced psychosis where an imaginary bat attacks him.


Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Mike Figgis

A man goes to Vegas to systematically drink himself to death falls in love with a prostitute. Yet no attempts are made to change each other into Mr. Sobriety and Little Miss Virtue. True love, no matter what the consequences may be. He dies, she cries, and Sting croons “My One and Only Love.”


Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Darren Aronofsky

A hellish portrayal of heroin addiction—with disturbing close-ups of needles sinking into veins, dilating pupils, tabs being swallowed, stuff snorted, and abnormally vain old mothers paying the price for diet-pill abuse. Junkie movies are supposed to be fun, right? Right? No.


Salo (1975)

Pier Paolo Pasolini

Adapted from Marquis de Sade's 100 Days of Sodom and believed to be a grotesquely surreal metaphor for Nazi insanity. In a  mysterious fort, a wide array of pervisions are forced on naked inmates: fed with feces and wedding cakes embedded with razors, sodomized in neat rows, and tortured and finally shot to death. One disturbing scene after another, with no other discernible intent but to shock the viewer into submission.


The Isle (2003)

Kim Ki Duk

A tranquil, mist-covered lake somewhere in the Korean countryside, boathouses, deafmute prostitutes, sad, lonely men with propensity to brutality, and fish hooks inside vaginas. Made all the more heartbreaking by the sick poetry and quiescence of it all.


Germany Year Zero (1948)

Roberto Rosellini

A country in ruins: families scrounge like insects for food, and 12-year-old Edmund helps keep his family alive. He poisons his sick father and, consumed with guilt, finally leaps to his death.


Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag (1975)

Lino Brocka

Ill-fated probinsiyano lovers ensnarled in the jaws of the city. When that single teardrop rolls down Hilda Koronel's cheek and the final frame freezes Bembol Roco's desperate scream, we understand the greatness of this Filipino social realist classic.


Paris, Texas (1984)

Wive Wenders

The man seems to have been walking the desert forever, exhaustion and despair written on each furrow on his face. He is searching for something he has lost, and at the end regrets even finding it at all: he finds his young wife behind the booth of a sex emporium.


Breaking the Waves (1996)

Lars Von-Trier

Set against the harsh Scottish coasts is this story of a simpleminded, almost childlike woman who makes a rather twisted pact with God: that by allowing herself to be sexually violated by strangers some divine power might improve the condition of her husband (hospitalized after figuring in a serious offshore oil-rig accident). Shot in a grainy, hand-held documentary style that captures the cold barrenness of their milieu, it is not as erotic as it sounds. And it is always a disturbing, awkward scenario when she goes out dressed like a slut.


Old Yeller (1957)

Robert Stevenson

A young boy is forced to shoot his beloved log after it tangles with a wolf and contracts abies. This painful tale, often packaged as a heartwarming children's classic, has inflicted unspeakable trauma to several generations of ids. What kind of a misantrope would make a movie like this? Of course, Walt Disney.


Photographs by IMDb

This story first appeared in the July - August 2008 issue of Metro Him