Sometimes it is not enough to simply “watch something on Netflix.” Sometimes you must have a BIZARRE OR INTERESTING EXPERIENCE. Here are some unusual experiences that you can have on Netflix right now!
Watch Valhalla Rising with the subtitles on
Valhalla Rising is Nicolas Winding Refn film where a bunch of people dressed like early medieval crusaders and/or vikings just stand around staring at gorgeous horizons while mysterious fogs swirl around them. It is great.
It is also a very very quiet movie, and definitely not the sort of thing that really benefits from a full sound-effect subtitle treatment. But it got one! Thanks, Netflix!! Loads of the little sounds the characters make as they fight one another, stagger through the forest, and gaze out over the harsh uncaring surface of the cold Atlantic ocean is explained in awkward Netflix subtitle text. It’s not that there are too many subtitles– I mean, they will certainly help deaf people understand a little bit more about what the hell is going on in this weird-ass quiet movie. It’s more that this movie’s sounds cannot be described in explicit language without ruining the mysteriousness that is, like, the core mood of the entire experience. Netflix subtitle sound effects are often mocked, and this is a fucking great example of how absurd they can be. Here’s a small album of some choice excerpts! (No important spoilers.)
Watching it with these subtitles on is a surreal experience. It occasionally approaches a comic-book-quality union of picture and text. This is not the best way to watch the movie, but it is a way to watch the movie, and some of it made me grin and cackle like an idiot.
Watch all of the Up Series
In 1964, a documentary filmmaker named Michael Apted started making a documentary about a group of 14 British kids from different class backgrounds. He has interviewed them about their lives every seven years since then, and most have continued to participate in all of the entries in the series despite the fact that they are under no obligation to.
Each video shows the participating people just describing their lives and how they live and what has happened to them since the last update. You see them change their minds and talk about their prior selves and where they’ve gone in life so far. It is fascinating and kind of crazy! The most recent entry, 56 Up, came out in 2012. Apted is still directing the project.
Watching this is like watching TIME TRAVEL.
Watch a 3+ hour miniseries and then watch it get edited down into a single 2.5 hour movie
This will require you to have a lot of interest in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and a certain amount of dedication to watching massive hours of foreign-language TV, but it’s an interesting experience if you edit stories for a living, as I do.
Anyway, there was a Swedish television miniseries of the entire Millenium Trilogy made in 2009. The whole thing consists of six 93-minute-long episodes. However, the first two episodes were edited together into a 2.5 hour-long movie for release in theaters. And lucky for us, this movie is also on Netflix!
So: here’s what you do. Read the book first, probably. Then watch the miniseries. Then watch the movie version. Pay attention to what shit got cut out between the book and the TV show. Then think about how the story’s pacing works differently to develop the main characters’ relationship in the TV show versus the movie version. If you marathon this shit you will be able to catch a lot of little details. What conversations get shortened, and by how much? What does it feel like to lose all the pregnant pauses in a three-hour-long story? Which characters are essentially cut out of the movie version, and how does that affect the experience?
In my opinion, the miniseries ‘feels’ much better because the two main characters spend more time together and apart, so we get a better idea of what they’re like as a pair and what they’re like when they’re on their own. (This is pretty important for this story, because the plot requires you to buy the idea that the young woman protagonist would become smitten with the crusty older male protagonist despite, like, a twenty-year age difference. Which is also the kind of shit Dude Thriller Movie trope you shouldn’t get me started on. )
I don’t think this is a great or even very good example of how to shorten a single unalterable chunk of content to tell the same story, but it is the only example of this kind of thing worth watching on Netflix right now. I spend a lot of time at work and on my personal creative projects trying to figure out how to tell a story with fewer and fewer words and fewer and fewer scenes, so this experience was valuable to me.
You can also do this with the other two two-episode blocs of the miniseries– they were also edited down into single movies. I just haven’t done this with them because I’m not interested in mainlining something like ten more hours of the same content over and over again.