Film & TV

Cinema of Solitude

llustration by Shafia Motaleb/@artsyfifi

With another local lockdown being introduced to Cardiff, we wanted to hear what some of your favorite films are based on the theme of loneliness. What is it about these films that allows us to find solace and comfort in them, even in the hardest of times? Slow burning, brooding and emotionally charged- we’ve got the perfect films lined up highlighting the theme of solitude within cinema!

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

By Phoebe Bowers

Whimsical, zany, and full of kooky characters and plotlines – Howl’s Moving Castle still bodes well as one of the best comfort films of the early 00’s. Main character Sophie (voiced by Chieko Baisho in the Japanese speaking version, and by Emily Mortimer in the English version) is a young hatmaker who struggles to relate to her peers, but also does not feel at home within herself. In a turn of events, Sophie is cursed by the ‘Witch of the Waste’ and is made to be an old and supposedly ‘ugly’ woman. In order to break the spell, Sophie ventures on an escapade which results in her getting entangled in the wiles of infamous wizard Howl, and his travelling castle. A wizard who, by rumour, only eats the hearts of beautiful young girls.

Where this film plays with the theme of loneliness is how Sophie feels insecure and alone not only around other people – but also with herself. She feels her external appearance does not reflect who she is within. Her sense of self is not cohesive. When surrounded by others whom she gets along with and identifies with, such as  Howl, apprentice Markl, and demon Calcifer, she still feels alone as she thinks they cannot see her as her pure and true self. 

Little does she know that in moments when she is most confident or content, the people around her, for a glimpse, see Sophie in her true beautiful form. One can find solace in this animated classic, in knowing how they see themselves is not necessarily how others perceive them.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

By Emma Proux

“You’ve probably heard that one before. It’s not new and it never gets old and it’s a folk song.”

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a familiar Coen antihero that lives in a misty and moody Manhattan in the 1960s. Every frame looks like a magnificent classic album cover, the pace is slow, and we follow the protagonists’ struggle to make it as a folk singer. He encounters characters, obstacles to an extent, questioning his career choices and lifestyle.

His Welsh first name gives him an echo of both Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas, however he seems far from their success. Davis was once part of a double-act whose album was touchingly titled If I Had Wings. His comeback as a solo act showcases his prickly loneliness on his new album Inside Llewyn Davis. Nothing in his dark music, or his personality, allows us much access to what he is really like “inside”. 

Isolating himself from any commercial advice he is given, Davis finds himself homeless: living on people’s couches, an existence that alienates him. But he carries on with the weight of his failure as a reminder of his integrity as an artist. The only common thread is his attachment to his friend’s cat that keeps escaping, a way for him to compensate for his “bad” choices and find comfort.

The film points at the myth of the American success story and how the ultimate great breakthrough after hard work is non-existent;  yet we can allow ourselves to admire his tales and songs, for they can be beautiful, and sometimes, majestic.

First They Killed My Father (2017)

By Soyal Khedkar

With another lockdown in Cardiff and many other cities around the world, it is only natural that one can feel a little lonely. Many people have turned towards Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and such to kill time. 

Being locked up in my house for a month now, I found myself watching films that really bring comfort in these times. About two years ago, I read a book called First They Killed My Father. The story about the author’s experience during the Khmer Rouge regime makes one realise, ‘Ah, what we are going through today amid this pandemic isn’t as bad as things were for them.’

The film adaptation that came in 2017, directed by Angelina Jolie, truly is an emotional roller coaster to get through. With all the struggles that the protagonists of the movie had to go through back then, my experience of this lockdown feels like nothing in comparison. It brings out all kinds of emotions, especially gratitude. The film perfectly grasps the idea of uncertainty, loneliness, losing loved ones and makes one realise that we have more than enough to get through this pandemic. We can still be in contact with family and friends, we have a roof over our head, and have access to everything a person needs to survive. 

All in all, First They Killed My Father is a film that was showcased through a seven-year-old girl’s perspective. To see that such a young girl fought through something so traumatic really makes me understand,

‘Perhaps I am not actually as lonely as I thought I am.’

Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)

By Louise Marmié-b

Cléo sings for a living and lives on the left bank of Paris. She is young, beautiful, impulsive and emotional. But Cléo is waiting for a life or death result from her doctor, and one is never as alone as in the face of chronic illness. 

The film takes place almost in real time: from 5pm to 7pm, the spectator accompanies Cléo, wandering in the streets, rubbing shoulders with her friends, her lover — without ever really being with them. When Cléo sings a piano tune about her infinite loneliness, the background fades to black, a visual and auditory translation of her distress and alienation. Prey to her existential anguish, Cléo feels that no one understands her, throwing unreasonable fits and lamenting that no one really loves her. 

“You want me to come? No, I want to be alone”

It is not  a coincidence that the film takes place on the 21st of June, during the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, emphasising feelings of slowness, languor and unending impatience. 

It is only by coming out of this infinite introspection that Cléo begins to really see the world, and sees others too. Maybe that’s her answer to loneliness? Taking an interest in others to finally open up and, as cheesy as that may sound, seize the day. 

Agnès Varda, who has carved out a place for herself in the group of French New Wave, offers us Cléo de 5 à 7, a gem glinting with subtlety, a swell of emotions, an absolute must-see made of longing and tiny brilliant details. 

Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)