While we are persistently enamored with the final products that filmmakers deliver, also known as the films themselves, we are also always curious about the process and inspiration that go into making each filmmaker the person they are today. With that in mind, we’re honored to welcome a filmmaker to this recurring feature who is currently making both critical and box office waves with his debut feature, Hereditary. 31-year-old director Ari Aster is now known for the strikingly terrifying Hereditary, but he’s been on our radar since the online release of his short film, The Strange Thing About The Johnsons, a darkly satirical look at domestic melodrama.
In celebration of the release of Hereditary, Aster was kind enough to pick out six of his favorite shots of all-time and provide a bit of commentary about why these have stuck with him. Here’s what he came up with:
The final shot of 45 Years
“A staggering finale to a perfectly wrought, intensely focused character study. The film is so subtle and quiet that one could be forgiven for missing that it’s actually a waking nightmare – less about the disintegration of a functioning marriage (which it ultimately isn’t) than the smashing of one’s most desperately held illusions. Charlotte Rampling spends the entire film staving off the revelation that she doesn’t know her own life, and it’s not until the final shot (and, in fact, the final moment) that it all comes crashing down on her. The expression on her face (as vivid a display of terrified disorientation as I’ve seen) is further punctuated by an exquisitely timed cut to black.”
The girl being pushed from the cliff in Songs from the Second Floor
“Swedish movie god Roy Andersson spent several years making this tragicomic masterpiece (as well as the two spiritual sequels that followed it) and it plays like a parody of obsessive perfectionism. This is my favorite shot in a film that’s positively lousy with perfect shots.”
Shelly Winters’ underwater corpse in Night of the Hunter
“The most haunting and ethereal image of a corpse in the history of macabre cinema? This film was so powerful and ahead of its time in its alienating, nightmarish vision (pre-Lynch long before Altman’s Three Women was) that Charles Laughton was prevented from ever making another film. Like Songs from the Second Floor, it’s almost impossible to choose a favorite shot among the gems here. I ultimately chose this one because it was very much on my mind when I was designing an important post-mortem shot that occurs in the first half of Hereditary.”
The final shot in Naked
“David Thewlis’ Johnny, who might be Mike Leigh’s (and is certainly Thewlis’) most vivid creation, is given the ending he deserves with this brilliant tracking shot in which Johnny limps heroically away from his promises and responsibilities. It could have ended no other way, and it makes you want to cheer. A perfect final gesture in a film of unique power and endless chutzpah.”
The kiss scene in Vertigo
“Hitchcock’s most operatic film reaches its most ecstatic heights in this scene – although a case could also be made for the brilliant dream sequence (which, like this shot, is elevated no end by Bernard Hermann’s overwhelming score). Bar none, the greatest of all revolving shots swirling around embracing lovers! Hitchcock never before (or again) put the melos into “melodrama” like he did here.”
The dead woman waking up in the coffin in Ordet
“Carl Dreyer makes you wait and wait, and then in one shot, he makes you believe in God.”
Hereditary is in theaters now.