Movies comprise the highest form of the representational arts. Film is separated from painting by the dimension of time, which allows it to move closer to the truth of the Notion or concept generally. Here it is important to note that in the Phenomenology of Spirit, re-presentation (Vorstellung, often incorrectly translated as "picture-thinking") is self-consciousness's final phase before absolute knowledge of the concept in-and-for itself, c.f. Φ720 and following.

What matters most in a movie's relation to the concept is feeling or spiritual self-consciousness. Films which exhibit mere technical mastery without self-consciousness (2001: A Space Odyssey) are not to be taken seriously as films. With Hegel we can also say that a good movie will have some relation to tragedy, exhibiting self-consciousness by being a substantive conflict between two positions, especially the individual and society.

As a child I committed myself very seriously to watching 3 to 4 movies a day, because I once read that François Truffaut did similarly during his juvenile delinquency. I kept this up for many years, and watched something on the order of 900 films per year. What follows is an attempt to separate some of my favorites into distinct categories, specifically how they relate to the truth of living.

Film as tragedy

Though these movies are first characterized by their artifice and sumptuousness as an image, what matters most is their emotional content. Such films will often be categorized as melodramas and tell certain truths about one's relations with others, especially the family. As the family is the first and in some way ultimate proving grounds of ethical behavior, we can identify these movies as tragedies. Most films in this category will have been made when telling certain simple truths could be done directly and without narrative dishonesty -- compare 1945's Mildred Pierce with 2018's Hereditary, which both set out to make the same point about family life.

  • Mazurka (Willi Forst, 1935)
  • Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, 1937)
  • Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945)
  • Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
  • Chains (Raffaello Matarazzo, 1949)
  • Late Spring (Ozu Yasujiro, 1949)
  • The Browning Version (Anthony Asquith, 1951)
  • Forbidden Games (René Clément, 1952)
  • Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)
  • Floating Clouds (Naruse Mikio, 1955)
  • All that Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955)
  • Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)
  • Maboroshi no Hikari (Koreeda Hirokazu, 1995)
  • Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
  • Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang-dong, 2007)

The truth as the truth

Such films are concerned with showing life "as it is," and are often shot in the cinema verité style. Despite first appearances, most movies that tell the truth are not documentaries. Usually, documentaries are not concerned with the truth. The best examples of these often come from the United Kingdom, where they're commonly referred to as "kitchen-sink" or social realist films. Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Tsai Ming-liang, and Hou Hsiao-hsien are the most important practitioners of this type of film-making.

  • The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
  • A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961)
  • The L-Shaped Room (Bryan Forbes, 1962)
  • This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson, 1963)
  • High School (Frederick Wiseman, 1968)
  • Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)
  • Rebels of the Neon God (Tsai Ming-liang, 1992)
  • The Bed You Sleep In (Jon Jost, 1993)
  • Vive l'amour (Tsai Ming-liang, 1994)
  • Secrets and Lies (Mike Leigh, 1996)
  • Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay, 1999)
  • Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2004)
  • As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (Jonas Mekas, 2000)
  • Evolution of a Filipino Family (Lav Diaz, 2004)
  • Nobody Knows (Hirokazu Koreeda, 2004)
  • Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011)
  • Like Father, Like Son (Hirokazu Koreeda, 2013)

Truth as disintegration

These movies both wear down the viewer into an acknowledgement of reality, while at the same time being indicative of the disintegrative process of reality, i.e. the vanishing point between there being something and there being nothing. These films are difficult to make, difficult to watch, and difficult to conceptualize adequately.

  • Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (Fritz Lang, 1922)
  • The Warped Ones (Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1960)
  • The Hart of London (Jack Chambers, 1970)
  • Ecstasy of the Angels (Koji Wakamatsu, 1972)
  • 3 Women (Robert Altman, 1977)
  • Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
  • Der Tödesking (Jörg Buttgereit, 1990)
  • Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
  • Alps (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2007)
  • Melancholia (Lav Diaz, 2008)

The reality of external objects

Some films are made to make the viewer consider the lives of animals and the reality of "inert" matter.

  • Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (Unknown, 1940)
  • Au hasard Balthasar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
  • We (Artavazd Peleshyan, 1967)
  • Inhabitant (Artavazd Peleshyan, 1970)
  • Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang, 2013)