My Life In Films: Alexandria Slater | The Indiependent
I fear the day someone might hold a gun to my head and asks me what my favourite film is. That is because unless this imaginary hitman is patient enough to listen to me derail my answer from that one arthouse film that “changed my life” to the cult classic chick flick that I shamelessly claim liking as a personality trait, I’d probably be dead. Fortunately, my life isn’t a No Country for Old Men spin-off, and here I’m free to delve into five of the most beloved films that have challenged, comforted, and inspired me throughout the past 22 years.
Devil Wears Prada (2006) dir. David Frankel
It would be ingenuine to disregard Devil Wears Prada’s influence over me, however shallow the influence may be. The first time I watched Meryl Streep deliver some of the most iconic one-liners as Miranda Priestly I was hooked, obsessed even. Before watching the film, I had already decided that I wanted to be a writer when I grow up, but post-viewing ten-year-old me had to be a writer in New York. Anything less than picking up Starbucks for my boss each morning (how generous) would be a failure. Details as minute as the Amnesty poster in Andy and Nate’s apartment wormed its way into my own bedroom room today. And falling straight into the enticing arms of product placement, I started drinking San Pellegrino sparkling water because I internalised the idea that successful writers in big cities drink San Pellegrino sparkling water. My outlook on consumerism and the fashion and beauty industry has inevitably changed after removing those rose-tinted glasses. Nonetheless, my love for Miranda’s ‘cerulean blue’ monologue, Andy’s timeless outfit montage, and of course, my hatred for Andy’s unsupportive boyfriend, Nate, continually grows with every monthly rewatch.
Coraline (2009) dir. Henry Selick
Around the same time Coraline was released I had just moved to a different country and started at a new school, plunged into the deep end of unfamiliar territory. My naive perception of life began to shatter, and I started to question my place in the world during the transition from childhood to young adolescence. Nevertheless, I found a comforting sense of escapism living vicariously through Coraline’s bizarre journey down the rabbit hole. Like Coraline, I was feeling misunderstood and isolated. Of course, I wasn’t conducting a thorough character study or analysis of the film at the time. But now, one of the beauties of this film comes with the personal understanding I have for my younger self when I rewatch this work of art over a decade later with a new perspective.
Gone Girl (2014) dir. David Fincher
Before I was graced with Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel, most films and books that I had consumed featured only two types of women-either the outdated damsel in distress or the newly “progressive” heroine who lacks any form of femininity as if it were to be a flaw. Whilst a femme fatale should never be idolised and Amy Dunne is by no means a feminist icon, Gone Girl contributed heavily to the beginning of my radical feminist awakening. From Amy Dunne’s iconic and viscerally relatable “cool girl” monologue to the unapologetic portrayal of a complex, intelligent, manic female villain whose character arc focuses on achieving catharsis without empowering it, Gone Girl changed the way I consumed media for the better.
Across the Universe (2007) dir. Julie Taymor
I’ve always believed that one of the most effective ways of fighting for social justice is through the arts, a medium that translates all languages and cultural barriers. Across the Universe sparked this belief in me. My dad’s love for The Beatles naturally influenced my passion for the band, and when I was 7, he introduced me to what is, in my opinion, the greatest musical ever made. Set during the anti-Vietnam war movement, Across the Universe sparked my interest in radical activism against racism and war- with a little help from The Beatles’ to develop the storyline. I will admit, a majority of my devotion to the film is fuelled by nostalgia and Beatles bias because there are evident flaws in the writing and plot development but nonetheless, I am still captivated by Taymor’s surrealist masterpiece.
Chungking Express (1994) dir. Wong Kar-wai
The film equivalent to pondering the lives of strangers passing by, only metres apart with lives just as weighted as our own, and yet so disconnected from each other. Despite being surrounded by an abundance of people all in the same boat as me the first year of university was a pretty lonely time. I was in a vicious cycle of accompanying my loneliness with films as nihilistic as myself back then. No discredit to the talented Charlie Kaufman but it wasn’t exactly the pick-up I needed despite my admiration for Synecdoche, New York (2008). Offering a beacon of optimistic nihilism, Wong Kar-wai’s portrayal of the universal feeling of isolation with spontaneous filmmaking gave me a more positive sense of understanding and introduced me to the beauty of Asian cinema. Chungking Express encouraged me to refuse to be a slave to the future and instead embrace the inevitabilities of a disposable society and pineapple expiration dates by being present in every moment, with or without company.
Words by Alexandria Slater
Honourable mentions: Romeo + Juliet (1996), Spirited Away (2001), Amelie (2001), Dead Man’s Shoes (2004), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Black Swan (2010), Ex Machina (2014)
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Originally published at https://www.indiependent.co.uk on July 5, 2021.