Your favorite sublime, sacred & spiritual films?

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Films that defy logic and touch the core of humanity or transcendence, placing them among the most sacred and revered works. Films of utmost ethical or artistic merit that uplift the soul to a sublime level of moral or spiritual refinement and excellence.



Kaili Blues
An Elephant Sitting Still
This is not a burial it is a resurrection
La Jetee
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Ordet
Persona
Soy Cuba
Three Colors Blue
The Double Life of Veronique
In the Mood for Love
The Isle
Poetry
Failan
A Moment of Innocence
Stalker
Woman of the Dunes
Wings of Desire
Maborosi
Embrace of the Serpent
Lilya-4-ever
The Spirit of the Beehive
Ida
The Passenger
Code Unknown
Beau Travail
Titane
Uzak



Some of these are less confounding than others (Soy Cuba? Three Colors? Lilya-4-ever? Titane?!?!?!) but a good list nevertheless.



Embrace of the Serpent is great. Everyone should see it.



Putting in those terms, touching the core, just one: Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? (1989)
Leaving aside whether it was spiritual, it was absurdly fast-paced. The director throws at you up to 5 things at once and gives you merely 3 or 4 minutes to think about them before he assaults you with 5 other things. That's why good slow cinema is even up to 10 hours long. So that the viewer's brain has time to absorb what it's seeing. The condensation of Buddhist references is IMPOSSIBLE to grasp unless you're an absolute expert on the topic. Even the characters themselves are walking symbols. Every five minutes there's another reference to a Buddhist parable, legend, or sutra. Even if you more or less know them, you need time to remember what they were about, but before you do, the director adds two more. I'm positive most people who love this film don't understand it at all. Which is fine in and of itself if the film has other things to offer. But what else is there to love in it? OK, the cinematography is nice, but not masterful. The film isn't contemplative enough. It's too condensed for that.

The director's follow-up The People in White is undeniably a much superior film.



"The Tree of Life" (2011)
Yeah, I hated it the first and loved it the second time. I now champion it (and Malick in general) but I have no idea how I'd react if I watched it now.
Yeah, no. I haven't seen enough of his films to say that with full conviction but something's telling me that the last great film by Ang Lee was Eat Drink Man Woman.
"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" (2003)
Yeah, I loved it. I'm afraid I could rate it lower now, though.



Leaving aside whether it was spiritual, it was absurdly fast-paced. The director throws at you up to 5 things at once and gives you merely 3 or 4 minutes to think about them before he assaults you with 5 other things. That's why good slow cinema is even up to 10 hours long. So that the viewer's brain has time to absorb what it's seeing. The condensation of Buddhist references is IMPOSSIBLE to grasp unless you're an absolute expert on the topic. Even the characters themselves are walking symbols. Every five minutes there's another reference to a Buddhist parable, legend, or sutra. Even if you more or less know them, you need time to remember what they were about, but before you do, the director adds two more. I'm positive most people who love this film don't understand it at all. Which is fine in and of itself if the film has other things to offer. But what else is there to love in it? OK, the cinematography is nice, but not masterful. The film isn't contemplative enough. It's too condensed for that.

The director's follow-up The People in White is undeniably a much superior film.

The director's point is to show on film the koans, like you very well said, which are wrongly accepted in Japanese Zen as parables, or mysteries that only an enlightened being can grasp. In fact, they aren't. They are merely stories written on paper by those who, throughout the centuries, in China, climbed mountains to ask questions to the known Zen Masters. The word "Master" is wrongly understood in Western culture, they had no position of authority, they didn't teach anything, they were farmers who lived in a community, didn't write any books, didn't paint anything, they didn't meditate in any pose, they were there, and answered questions if anyone asked. They were there not to be secluded, escape or form a new society, they were there because they would be killed otherwise. This is history.

All that you see, like you said, is the representation through film, of those famous koans, that, in historical fact, were not actually from Zen Masters, were merely tools used to point out, by the Japanese, from a position of authority, who were enlightened and who were not, like a key.

The film essentially is not to be understood, there is nothing to really understand, is not knowledge of any kind, is not to be absorbed and kept somewhere. It's formed around two questions that are essentially the same: where did we come, what did come, where do we go, is there anything to go. The film title is exactly the same.

The entry and final scene, alone, resumes the whole thing for the author, and this phrase you won't find in any scripture (at least by these words): "Forever and ever, all is originally empty. There is no beginning, and no end. The thing which neither comes into being, neither perishes."

In the final scene, the orphan boy, who dealt with the most essential: life and death, burns the old master scriptures, it abandons the inquiry, and this is contrary to other spiritual films, or even books, even Buddhism, which has a point, to be free from suffering. In all essence, only the boy got it.



Yeah, I loved it. I'm afraid I could rate it lower now, though.

Beautiful, relaxing picture. Poetic in a simple, even Taoist way, the stages. But it reflects the essential life of the director, to receive pain, to give pain, and to like it, and that many couldn't possibly, slightly, start to relate.



There are many facets of Buddhist philosophy that I find elegant and profound like the concepts of "sunyata" and "dependent arising", and others such as the asceticism and negation of desire which are quite separable, and do not necessarily follow from such core ideas.

The differing views of Buddhist philosophy extends into modern Western thought through the divergence of Nietzsche's and Schopenhauer's respective ideas.

Unfortunately there's a dearth of films which express or tackle Buddhism in a sufficiently in-depth manner. As far as I'm concerned, only the aforementioned Bodhi-Dharma (1989) and probably Mandala (1981) have not shied away from broaching topics of the self and transcendence through the lens of Buddhist philosophy.



Just to be a little pedantic, but one of the most misused terms in cinema and by extension all of the arts is the term "transcendence". To transcend is to basically mean "to go out of"; to move beyond the limits of ordinary experience into a spiritual or other-worldly experience. This is opposed to the term "immanence", which means to "entirely remain within" given experience. What makes Buddhism so difficult to grasp in Western logic is that while Platonism and Christianity are clearly transcendent, Buddhism has a mixture of transcendence and immanence, or rather weaves both into its worldview.

For clarity's sake, "transcendental" has a very particular definition and meaning in Western philosophy, and that has absolutely nothing to do with transcendence. "Transcendental" would be the "conditions for the possibility of", like a set of grounding structures upon which reality is built out of, but nevertheless is an empty form that cannot be separated (except in theory) from the substance that it conditions.

Hence, in aesthetic criticism we ought to say that so-and-so film has the quality of being "transcendent" rather than "transcendental".



I just realized I haven't properly replied to the question. Adding on to what has already been mentioned... I think Ordet is the definitive film about transcendence.

Nothing Bad Can Happen (2013)
Himala (1981)
Travellers (1992)
Yeelen (1987)
Funeral Rites (1970)
Love (1971)
Beginning (2020)
Godland (2022)



Psychopathic Psychiatrist
James Cameronīs TITANIC was a highly spiritual movie in my opinion.

The movie opened my inner pandoraīs box of pure evil hatred.

I wasnīt aware of feeling actual HATE in this way ever before.