Sometimes a film captivates me in a way that just makes me desperate to get out there and explore. It’s not necessarily just the locations that were chosen, but everything from the characters to the atmosphere can claw me in. Some people want to be astronauts, some people want to go on Big Brother, I want to be stranded for six months in the Australian Outback. Is that weird? Here are five movies that put me in the mood for dropping everything and adventuring around the world.
Literally meaning “life out of balance”, Koyaanisqatsi is a movie in the traditional sense; moving pictures and sound. It meticulously cuts together beautiful footage taken from around the United States, backed with Phillip Glass’ thought-provoking score. It’s not all good news admittedly, beyond the hypnotic movements of the clouds and glistening building windows is a study of the human impact on the natural world and the growth of technology. It never fails to impress me, though. Every time I see it, it amazes me how much there is I’ve still yet to see.
Directed by Godfrey Reggio, with cinematography by Ron Fricke, Koyaanisqatsi is perhaps still one of my favourite ever films, for how perfectly every piece fits together. I can imagine it not really clicking with everyone and beyond that, the destruction seen later in the movie might even have the opposite effect of inspiration. Yet, there’s something about the way all those dots and dashes of traffic compel me. If aliens every visited Earth, this is the only thing they’d ever need to be showed to understand the history of this planet.
2. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring
The setting for Kim Ki-duk’s lackadaisical feature is a tiny lake which changes drastically from season to season. It seems like pretty much the perfect place for a holiday to me. There’s nobody for miles and the scenery is remarkable every which way you look. It’s also amazing how vividly each season changes the look and feel of the lake. Here in England it’s like binary weather, either it’s gloomy or a bit sunny. In Korea, it seems like every season offers something new. Within the film, each season also offers a new chapter in life, as it charts the progression of the Buddhist monk and his son who live there.
Jusan Pond is the name of the location and is a 200 year old artificial lake in Cheongsong County, Korea. It remains a curious area, for its trees which still grow underneath the water. The calmness of the surrounding forestry and the quiet lifestyle of the monk appeal to me the most. Who wants to bathe on a beach full of hundreds of tourists in Spain when places like this exist?
3. Easy Rider
It’s a bit cheesy now, but Easy Rider still manages to capture the road trip sense of adventure better than any other film. Famed for kick-starting the New Hollywood revolution of the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s, the film follows two bikers who decide to travel the south of USA in order to “find America”. Their spiritual quest doesn’t end exactly successfully, but the desire to drop everything and explore is something everyone can relate to. The style it’s shot in also adds to the amore, with a kind of scrapbook feel as the story unravels.
I think I just love open roads in general. When I see a clear road bending and winding into the horizon, I feel a compulsive need to be there. There’s a bleak ending to the film, with the ever-pending danger of greed likely to get you into trouble, but what’s adventure without a little risk? It takes a lot of guts to stop saying you’re going to do something like this and actually do it. And that alone should be inspiration enough for us all.
When a man finds it his destiny to drag a ship over a hill, you can do nothing but be instantly captivated. Werner Herzog’s remarkable film stars Klaus Kinski in arguably his greatest role. He plays an Irishman named Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, living in Peru and in search of rubber, which was the most profitable industry in Peru at the time. Once rich from selling the rubber he finds, he aims to complete his dream of building an opera house in Iquitos. The character’s sheer desire to get what he wants by any means necessary is what really carries the film. He takes a steamship to an area he hears has a significant amount of rubber trees and when he reaches an impassable part of the river, he’s forced to move the ship over a hill to the other side.
The film is all about getting stuck into nature and harnessing its power. With the help of the locals, Fitzcarraldo cuts down numerous trees and creates a conveyor belt of trunks to roll the ship up the hill. The thing that really wows me is how instead of cutting corners, director Herzog went deep into the jungles of Peru and actually took the ship over the hill. To me it’s a film-making feat which trumps almost any other. What you see in the film is all real and when you see it, you want to go to Peru and take a ship over a hill yourself.
Walkabout isn’t about travelling, it’s about survival. Nicolas Roeg’s cult film, loosely based on James Vance Marshall’s novel of the same name, charts the journey of a girl and her younger brother stranded in the Australian Outback. Again, it’s the theme of isolation in a beautiful place that appeals to me. I like how it’s people from the city that find themselves out there, making it easy to relate to everything they experience. Especially the meeting of the Aborigines which is an experience in itself.
It takes human life back to its most basic and forces the characters to survive in the dry heat. The name Walkabout refers to Australian Aborigines having to live out in the wilderness on their own for several months as a kind of ritual. Every time I watch Walkabout, I think “Yeah I could do that”. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to ever actually do it, but it makes me desperately want to all the same.
Those are just five, but there must be thousands. What movies inspire you to travel?