forests and jungles

A few weeks ago, I was at a friend’s place with a few other friends. After lunch, it was somehow decided that we should watch a horror movie. I think the rationale was that it was broad daylight, and we were in good company, so any horror film was likely to be more tolerable (compared to watching one in other circumstances). A particular friend in the group also seems quite interested in this genre (JS!)

So we scrolled through Netflix for a bit, and after some indecision, we kind of randomly chose a movie called The Forest. It’s about a woman who goes missing in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, which is also known as “the suicide forest” because of the many suicides that have taken place there over the years. It is believed that the woman intends to commit suicide (if she hasn’t done so already), but the woman’s twin sister flies to Japan to look for her, convinced by some psychic twin bond that she is still alive.

Overall, the movie was … unremarkable (?) Maybe it was the circumstances in which I watched it, but it also seemed kind of predictable and flat. We also kept noticing and questioning various “unrealistic” details. Horror movies seem to have that added pressure of needing to be as believable as possible because, without that, they just aren’t as scary.

I suppose the part of the movie I appreciated most was the psychological element. Yes, gory scenes make me squirm, but I think psychological horror is worse than violence and gore. Anyway, the idea was that if you enter the forest with any sadness within you, even if you aren’t suicidal, the forest will make you want to kill yourself. Eventually, you don’t know what thoughts are really yours, and you don’t even know for sure if what you’re seeing and hearing and perceiving is actually real at all.

So that part of it was intriguing, but probably not enough to make me recommend this movie to anyone. Sorry.

A similar movie that I would recommend, however, is Jungle, which is about a small group of travellers who decide to go on an expedition through the Amazon Jungle. It is based on the true story of Yossi Ghinsberg, and stars Daniel Radcliffe as Yossi.

I actually watched Jungle last year when I was in Cairns for a few days for a friend’s wedding. I was just channel surfing one night after dinner, and stopped when I saw this movie with Daniel Radcliffe. I mean, I’m not a major fan or anything, but I’ve only ever known him as Harry Potter, so I was interested to see how he did in other roles. I probably missed a bit of the start, but I don’t think it really affected anything – the rest of the movie still made sense.

Anyway, there’s a parallel between The Forest and Jungle (apart from having similarly simple, or some would say unimaginative, titles). In both movies, when the protagonist is alone and lost, their mind starts playing tricks on them – they see things that aren’t there, but, at the same time, seem so real. The viewer is made to question their own perception of reality, and what the hell is really happening.

Perhaps this is the thing I like about movies – being made to question what I assume is true. It’s the kind of thing I like from books, articles, blogs and discussions. (I like other things from these media too, but I seem to especially like things that provoke thought.)

If I remember correctly, somewhere in Meditations, Marcus Aurelius asserts that “the infallible man does not exist”. The human mind really can be quite fickle and unreliable, even when it’s not under additional external stress.

Movies that I’ve watched throughout the years that have stuck with me also seem to have this element of deception as a prominent part of the story – for example, The Sixth Sense, The Truman Show, and Fight Club.

Arguably, there is some deception in Life is Beautiful (one of my most favourite movies) because the protagonist, Guido, tries to trick his young son into believing that their WWII concentration camp is actually some kind of prolonged game or competition. But he only does this to stop his son from being scared or worried about what’s happening.

Depending on who asks, I also sometimes like to tell people that my favourite movie is The Lion King. But I suppose the only real deception in that is by Scar, and he’s the evil guy anyway, so I’m not sure if that counts for anything…

Anyway, I want to finish this post by saying that I don’t watch a lot of movies (you might’ve also guessed this by how few posts there are in my blog’s “movies” category). It’s not that I don’t like watching movies, but they just aren’t a high priority in my life. As such, although I will still appreciate recommendations for movies, it’s going to take me a very long time to get around to watching any of them. I mean, I’m still trying to get around to reading books that people have recommended, and this is always going to take precedence.


8 thoughts on “forests and jungles

  1. I don’t watch many movies either. I don’t watch ones that use violence as entertainment and I don’l like maudlin sappy ones either. That being said, I agree with you that for me the subtext of any movie is “being made to question what I assume is true.” If that happens and there’s enough reality in a movie, then I’m hooked. But somehow most movies I hear about or start to watch don’t grab my interest, at this point in my life. Maybe later.

    • Yes, it feels like a long time since I’ve been really excited about a new movie too! Maybe it’s just a phase where movies don’t seem appealing, but these days I also feel like two hours is a long time to sit and passively watch something…

      • Me too. I tend toward coach potato, but I cannot sit still that long and allow myself to detach from reality for that long. Maybe though it’s a phase/age thing, and movies will get more interesting to me when I’m older.

  2. The Sea of Trees with Matthew McConaughey also features the “suicide forest.” I didn’t think it was terrible but looking now online, many reviewers did! It DOES have the kind of psychological switch-ups you mention.

    I do watch a lot of movies and there is much to be said for those that keep you guessing without totally leaving the realm of possibility.

    • A friend of mine told me there have been lots of movies made about the “suicide forest”. I suppose they’d all tend toward the same sort of themes. I’ll watch “The sea of trees” if I happen to come across it. I don’t always agree with bad reviews, even if they’re the majority

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