There’s really no need for an introduction or for us to tell you how powerful David Bowie’s music is, how it stretched across generations and electrified all of our odd bits and ultimately made us feel more alive in our strangeness. We’ve spent the better part of a year celebrating his eternal greatness and re-listening to his music, a gift which has aided so many of us in our quest to put words down on the page and twist our imagination in new ways until they become reality. To celebrate David Bowie’s creativity and genius, we’ve decided to pay tribute to him through the best way we know how: a melding of our love of music and movies. Here are five David Bowie songs that should be movies.
Todd Haynes’ Five Years
I think the only way to successfully explore all the intricacies of Bowie’s life would be to forego the traditional biopic and explore his life over five distinct periods, with different actors in the mythic, iconic, and private lives of David Bowie a la Todd Haynes’ 2007 I’m Not There, which took an experimental look at the lives of Bob Dylan. The five parts of the film would be divided into his early “Hunky Dory” years, “Ziggy Stardust,” “Thin White Duke”/”Berlin,” the ’80s pop era, and his Neoclassicist/later years. Respectively I envision Charlie Heaton, Robert Sheehan, Matthew Goode, Tilda Swinton, and Jeremy Irons as Bowie in each of the respective periods of his life. The film would be less concerned with mimicry and more so with each of the actors capturing the essence of Bowie at that particular time and giving insights to both his life as performer and artist, but also as the human being whose personal struggles kept him tethered to Earth.
Jonathan Glazer’s Major Tom
Pulling on elements from Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” and “Ashes to Ashes,” Major Tom would follow an astronaut whose one-man mission to space creates a sense of isolation that causes him to question his purpose within the framework of existence, and eventually leads him to an encounter with “God,” or the closet human approximation to it. After being presumed lost for years, Major Tom is recovered and brought home where he is treated like a celebrity, his story turned into a lucrative book deal and movie. Wanting to return to the cosmos and once again encounter “God,” Major Tom turns to drugs in order to regain his sense of isolation, but finding isolation on an over-crowded Earth proves impossible, and Major Tom realizes that he may forever be cut off from his cosmic epiphany. Glazer’s film would be a deep-dive into the great power and tragedy of living as a singular being with insight to truths that no one else will ever see, and how those truths can be compromised by outside visions.
Henry Selick’s Time
Time is a love story in which the fate of the universe hangs in the balance. A stop-motion film about the personification of time, Henry Selick’s film would offer a Gaiman-esque exploration into a figure who controls the entire universe. Time, a chain smoking proprietor of entropy and decay, seeks a successor to take over his station and allow him to live as a mortal. He comes to Earth in the guise of a madam and opens a brothel, which he uses as an experimentation chamber to find a client with the greatest lust for life and capabilities to live as an immortal, a rare talent among humans. He finds the perfect successor, only to fall in love with him – the client’s zeal for living offering Time a glimpse of all the things he’d forgotten. Thus, Time is torn between ensuring the continued existence of the universe, and a personal life that he’s been denied for eons.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s Oh! You Pretty Things
Bowie’s song is credited as referencing Aleister Crowley, Nietzsche, and the novel, The Coming Race, so it only makes sense that the film should pay tribute to those references in a way that offers modern insight and is in touch with the tone of the song. Oh! You Pretty Things is a grounded, cosmic horror film set in high school hallways and the suburban households of teenage girls. Amirpour’s film follows a group of five girls who becomes vessels for extra-dimensional aliens, who use the girls to study Earth’s youth culture and the division between millennials and babyboomers. Unbeknownst to their parents, the possessed girls begin communicating with an ancient entity who will come to Earth and destroy the adult population, setting the stage for Earth’s youth to evolve into a new race of beings. The amount of horror the viewer experiences from this film will be dependent on age, but regardless there will be a beautiful sense of dread that’s a universal experience.
Duncan Jones’ The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Like so many, Ziggy Stardust is my favorite Bowie album, and the film needs to be something special that captures Bowie’s message in a way that’s unburdened by time. I envision Bowie’s entire album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars being done as a massive, science-fiction rock-opera set in a time period that anachronistically blends the decades of Bowie’s career. Ziggy Stardust already tells such a wonderful story that I see little reason to change the key elements beyond bringing it to life on screen. This tale of a messianic, alien rock star who comes to save the world, but is destroyed by its corruption in the process, still feels so pertinent to our current existence of sensationalized celebrities, political irresponsibility, and moral quagmires. Duncan Jones is one of the most impressive genre world-builders working today, and with respect, I think he’d be the perfect visionary to bring one of his father’s most celebrated works to the screen in a way that’s weird, wonderful, and engaging in its immediacy.
Featured Image: RCA Records