I like watching films and I’m fortunate to be able to watch quite a few for my job. At the moment, I’m teaching a unit of work about cultural identity in Mexican cinema, which I’m finding fascinating. It made me think of some of my favourite foreign language films of the last few years. If you get chance over the Christmas period, check some of these out- it’s always nice to see something a bit different from the usual Hollywood blockbusters! Alas, I have a limited list here- if you know of any I should definitely watch, let me know!
Kamikaze Girls (2004)- Japan
In recent years, Japan has arguably been more famous for its horror films (and you should check out Battle Royale and The Ring if you haven’t and see what all the fuss was about), but I have had a love affair with Kamikaze Girls since I first saw it a few years ago. It’s the story of an unlikely friendship between a girl who is the very epitome of kawaii and a member of a girl gang, who are thrown together through boredom. The film is funny, heartbreaking and, at times, utterly mad. It’s brilliant and easily one of my favourite films of all time.
A Royal Affair (2012)- Denmark
Benn and I saw this last year and we were pleasantly surprised. The film tells the true story of Caroline, the daughter of George III who has the misfortune to be married to the mad king of Denmark. Unhappy and shunned by court, she begins an affair with his brilliant doctor and the two of them begin radical reform to increase the welfare of the poor. It sounds dull- I promise you it’s not. If you like historical dramas, this one should definitely be on your list.
Amores Perros (2000)- Mexico
This is one of the films I teach this year and it’s a powerful look at the different strands of Mexican society. It’s also the film that kicked off the recent Mexican New Wave (largely, in part, due to the rise of Gael Garcia Bernal.) The film tells the story of three people interconnected by a devastating car crash and deals with forbidden love, frustration, betrayal and dog fighting. It’s fast, sad, exciting and troubling all at once and sheds light on Mexican life in an incredibly real way.
The Lives of Others (2006)- Germany
I’m not sure I can even comprehend what life was like in East Germany, where this film is set, but The Lives of Others shows a state that even George Orwell would have been shocked at. A Secret Service argent is tasked with listening in to the lives of a playwright and his partner- they’re suspected of not adhering to strict party laws. However, rather than informing on them, the agent becomes more and more drawn into listening into their life. It’s a film to watch when you’re feeling a bit deep, when you want to think about human beings and how we affect each other.
Amelie (2001)- France
This is an obvious choice for me- not only is it the film on this list you’re most likely to have seen, but it also sparked my love of Paris and all things French (apart from really noxious-smelling cheese.) I love this film: I love the character of Amelie, I love the way the film is shot and I love the whimsy of the whole thing. It’s kind of twee in places, but it was twee before tweeness became fashionable. One of the reasons I persuaded Benn that we should go to Paris on honeymoon was because of this film (you can rent the apartment used as Amelie’s in the film, but we couldn’t afford it.) Next time I go, I will definitely take myself on a tour of the locations in the film. You should just watch this. It’ll be good for you.
What are your favourite foreign language films?