Or maybe … well, I think the end of it might cause “maybes” like that for years. Beyond Kaufman’s own work (and Meet the Parents), it’s most reminiscent of two of Stanley Kubrick’s most infinitely interpretable films, The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Shining definitely hides behind the snowy scenes and the tendency to cut the couple at the school janitor, just as Kubrick cut the Torrances at the chef at the Overlook Hotel; 2001’s influence becomes evident in subsequent psychedelic scenes which I won’t spoil in describing. I’m not saying that Kaufman’s movie will be consecrated as a classic like these Kubrick movies are. It’s too idiosyncratic and demanding for that: many viewers will think about ending it halfway through. But, like those films, it’s rich in detail and ideas, and it comes from a unique, uncompromising talent who likes to leave some details behind for the viewer.
Yet the film is not just a horror drama and an intellectual puzzle. Sometimes it’s hilarious: sudden references to Billy Crystal and Robert Zemeckis made me laugh out loud. And sometimes, it’s upsetting. I think the end of things constantly draws attention to its own artifice and things that can only happen in movies. But he seems utterly genuine in his worry about aging, disease, pain, regret, and the connections we make with art and others. Whatever universe it is in, it has a lot to say about ours.
Do you like cinema and television? Join BBC Culture Film and TV Club on Facebook, a community of moviegoers from all over the world.
If you’d like to comment on this story or anything you’ve seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or send us a message on Twitter.
And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly newsletter of bbc.com features, called the essential list. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.