Fanny and Alexander directed by Ingmar Bergmantwitter/ VictorOmoayo

CONTENT NOTE: This article contains a brief discussion of suicide and depression

In this time of COVID-19 madness, it is an arduous task not to succumb to panic and to keep our spirits high. As events are cancelled and we’re advised to keep away from any public space, we’re all stuck at home and nobody knows how long it will last. In a better world, it would be a best-case scenario for every zealous cinephile but given the circumstances, the situation isn’t, frankly speaking, ideal. One of the few perks of life in a pandemic is that it opens up a time-gap to do some of the things (and binge-watch some of the movies!) you’ve been too busy to try under normal conditions. Barricading yourself in bed with a laptop and comfort snacks by your side sounds like the best possible solution right now, but sometimes time hangs heavy at home and it’s hard to put the real-world anxieties out of your mind. Time sure does move slowly especially if the world around seems to be on fire, so if you’d like to fill the upcoming days with some long-distance arthouse classics (to be), have a look at our definitely- non-exhaustive choice of ridiculously long movies worth catching up on during self-isolation!

1. An Elephant sitting still (3h 50 min)

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Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

A feature debut film of 29-year-old Chinese director Hu Bo (who sadly committed suicide just after completing the film in 2017) is a compelling yet bitter vivisection of a nation in a state of political and moral decay. Shot in bleak, lifeless colours, this almost 4-hour-long epic has a mosaic-like structure – one accident triggers a cascade of seemingly unrelated events, that reveal their mutual connections only when seen from a bird's eye perspective. The stories of Hu Bo's protagonists – among them a boy caught up in a school conflict, a local gangster, a girl who decides to run away from home, or a pensioner whose relatives plan to put him into a nursing home – unfold within one day, from dawn to dusk, long enough to depict the vastness of despair, experienced universally, as an integral part of being human. What unites all characters is their longing to escape from their city and their lives, and their fascination with an elephant from the city of Manzhouli — a Buddha-like figure, indifferent to the cruelty of every-day life. 

2. Fanny and Alexander (TV version - 5h 26 min/ theatrical version  - 3h 9 min)

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Where to watch: Kanopy (theatrical version)

Ingmar Bergman's magnum opus is a tender, quasi-autobiographical family saga told from a view-point of 8-year-old Alexander (an alter-ego of the director himself?). Set in a provincial Swedish town in the early twentieth century, Fanny and Alexander traces the story of the Ekdahl family  a matriarch Helena, her newly widowed daughter-in-law Emilie who's soon to be married to the local bishop Edvard, and Emilie's children from her first marriage, the eponymous Fanny and Alexander. Immersed in the magical imagery accessible only for those who preserved a child-like perception of the world, Bergman's feature is a hymn to life, imagination, and the power of storytelling  one that transgresses limitations of reality and opens up new, subnatural universes. 

3. Satantango (7h 30min)

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Where to watch: DVD

Please, please, don't be put off by the opening, 9-minute-long shot of cattle grazing in the fields, watching Satantango is a one of a kind experience. Composed with only a few, seemingly uneventful, lengthy takes, this Hungarian arthouse masterpiece regards the phenomenon of time, both for its protagonists and its audience, in an entirely new way.  The story takes place in a dilapidated collective farm, whose disillusioned residents are waiting for the arrival of the mysterious Irimiás  ex-villager and prophet-to-be, who they believe will pull the community out of the financial and moral mire. Soon it turns out that the man, despite his Godot-esque reputation, may not be a saviour for whom the village has been waiting for so long. Indeed, Satantango is a pessimistic treatise on the need for wise leadership, the temptation of authoritarianism, and the dangers of herd mentality. The feeling of overwhelm and fatigue is woven into the very fabric of Tarr’s movie, but still, that’s a sacrifice worth making.

4. The Decalogue (9h 21 min) 

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Where to watch: Criterion Channel

Inspired by the Ten Commandments and divided into ten instalments, Kieslowski's epic deals with the sacrum without the prostration, but with a great dose of tenderness towards the moral flaws of its protagonists. Every episode is a closed unit, but they share the same setting in a communist block of flats somewhere in Warsaw, whose residents are confronted with several real-life moral dilemmas, loosely influenced by each of the ten commandments. Their ethical puzzles are not detached from their mundane lives, but they grow out of it; a sense of absurdity and of the messiness of life is engrained in Kieslowski's philosophical system and constitutes his distinctive, cinematic language. Free will, the randomness of the choices we make (or rather the lack thereof), science as a 'false god', the death penalty and its moral implications — all of these major existential dilemmas are played out in the ordinary scenery of  a single brutalist apartment block, without a moralising empty talk, but with an understanding of life's unpredictability.  

5. La flor (14h 28 min)

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Where to watch: Grasshopper Film


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Mountain View

Ghibli’s heroines don’t need a saviour

 A musical, B-class horror movie, soap opera, spy thriller — it's all here! Shot over a decade, and divided into six sections, with each instalment starring the very same four actresses, Mariano Llinás’s monumental production breaks with the traditional cinematic storytelling and serves us an explosive mix of plots, subplots, flashbacks, and random interjections. If this seems messy, you are not wrong, but believe me, there's a method to this madness! Constructed in the ornamental way, like the eponymous flower (as explained by the director himself, who consistently appears on-screen to raise the spirits and guide us through the complexities of the movie), La flor reflects on ways in which we consume images and stories, but above all, is an expression of wild love for the cinema in all of its forms.

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