Probably the most well-known title on this list—especially with such a renowned director, Big Fish offers the most heartwarming story of love and adventure, in such a way that is suitable for the whole family. The story starts when, on what seems to be his last days on earth, Ed Bloom (Albert Finney) tells his son's wife (Marion Cotillard) of his adventurous youthful days. In his teenage years, young Ed Bloom (Ewan McGregor) seems to have met a giant, joined the circus, robbed a bank without fail and met a witch, who showed him his death—among other things. It is his adventures as a young man that we will see as a piece of surreal fantasy. It's as if he lives in an entirely different world from us. The aesthetics is very quirky, typical of Tim Burton, with a lot more colours and cheer than we're probably used to in his other works. I love the romance of the story—not just in love, but also in life—and the lack of need for explanation. Spoiler alert: Ed dies in the end—but the funeral was absolutely lovely and reminds me of a much more cheerful version of my Mom's.
Probably my number one favourite on this list! The Fall is such a tremendous film with great transitions between frames. It uses the term and function of surreal visuals incredibly well, using symbols at every turn and conveying a story within a story exceptionally. Set in the 1920s, The Fall follows Roy Walker (Lee Pace), an injured stuntman, when he begins telling a story to Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a little girl with a broken arm, of five mythical heroes on a journey together. It was Roy's story, but the image we see of them in the film is evidently conjured up by Alexandria's imaginations. As the story progresses on, it reveals more of Roy's state of mind in the current predicament of his life. I absolutely adore the fluidity of form through each frame, creating symbolic meaning throughout the whole film. The story itself is very, very simple too—just a guy storytelling to a kid—but apparently contains much more depth than anticipated.
Paying tributes to The Beatles, Across the Universe creates a realm and story to fit their top tracks into. It is done beautifully, complete with the perfect choreography and set design—without making the whole film look awfully theatrical. The songs are also not seem forced to fit the puzzle, instead seeming to complete the scenes amazingly well. Set in the 60s, the story follows Jude (Jim Sturgess), a young man from Liverpool, as he moves to the US to seek his estranged father in New Jersey. There he meets the Carrigan siblings, Max (Joe Anderson) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). Thus, Jude and Lucy's love begins to bloom. The film takes you on a ride through all the significant events of the decade, including various The Beatles' references—definitely more fun to watch if you're a fan but I'm not and enjoyed the movie greatly nonetheless. The story is definitely rife with meaningful symbolic messages and political elements—what with the Vietnam War background and all—so it's still recommended even for those who don't particularly fancy a romantic film.
If you're into indie films and somewhat bleak romance, you might even have heard of this film. First off, Eternal Sunshine is definitely not everyone's cup of tea—Firu couldn't watch it to the end—but once you like it, you might never forget it. As far as surreal goes, this one doesn't really offer too much—it's not exactly fantasy-like, but definitely putting things out of place to make you question reality. The film doesn't open as straight forward as the rest of the films in this list, which already catches you off guard. Basically, the story is about Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) who were once lovers but underwent a procedure where they arranged to have the other erased from their minds. However, after a while, they meet in real life and fall for each other all over again—only to learn later on that they've met before. The memories that Joel tries so hard to hold on to are the ones we often see as surreal fragments of a separate realm from reality. Though subtle, ridden with emotions, these fragments create a deep impression on me.
Saving the best for last, I present to you the most surreal film on this list. It's so surreal, in fact, that I'm not entirely sure which one is the real world. Okay, you may notice that this one is animated—which probably seems like cheating—but I've never seen a film as surreal as Paprika before, even in animated form. In what is probably a distant future, a device that allows people to record and watch their dreams is created—and it gets stolen. The thief uses it to enter people's minds and distract them with their own dreams—thus erasing the lines between reality and dreams almost completely. All hell breaks loose. With the help of a cyber sprite named Paprika (Megumi Hayashibara), the scientists and the police try to identify the thief as they ward off his/her attacks on their own psyches. With such a tremendous storyline—and concept—this film is assisted with amazing graphics, allowing the characters and objects to have such fluid movements to confuse to viewers even more. The plot is quite face-paced to convey the exact chaos the situation has caused. Now you tell me if you wouldn't be confused about reality afterwards too.