A couple of weeks ago, Odeon Cinemas tried something new. The cinema chain chose a foreign language film for its latest Screen Unseen event (the French thriller, Disorder).
It was wonderful to see a foreign language film on the big screen and I do hope that this is the start of a wider distribution of world cinema.
This film choice also made me think of my past (and frankly) ridiculous attitude to subtitles. I would avoid foreign language films because I didn’t want to do too things at once - watch and read. Was it laziness? Ignorance. Perhaps a combination of both.
I am so glad that I am now over my subtitle phobia. These days, it doesn’t matter to me where the film comes from. Indeed, I am often more interested in films from countries other than my own (England) and America.
As, it took my 500 Days Of Film Challenge to get me to this better place, I thought I would use this post to share my top ten foreign language films*.
Top 10 Foreign Language Films
10. A Royal Affair
A fascinating true story, told with passion and depth, A Royal Affair tells of Princess Caroline (Alicia Vikander) who is unhappily married to the mentally troubled King Christian VII of Denmark (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard).
Increasingly isolated, she finds herself attracted to Johann Struensee (superbly portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen), the King’s physician and confident.
The two embark on a passionate affair and endeavour to use their influence with the King to bring enlightenment and freedom to their people.
Film footage has been discovered in Norway featuring a group of college students and their recorded interactions with a Troll Hunter.
The footage has been painstakingly edited (in chronological order) and authenticated (so that we know it is all real) to enable us to piece together what exactly happened to the students before they disappeared.
Because they have not been seen since.
Troll Hunter is a gripping and thoroughly entertaining mock-documentary.
8. The Raid
The Raid is a truly breathtaking action film.
Deep within the Indonesian city of Jakarta, lies a hellish place - a safe haven for violent criminals and drug dealers.
This 30 floor apartment block is a no-go area, even for the bravest of the city’s police force.
Determined to regain control, a team of police officers enter the building in an attempt to flush out the criminals - floor by floor.
However, it is only once in that they realise the enormity of their task and their battle becomes one of survival.
Ida is a stunning film about love and betrayal.
It is Poland, 1962. Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a novice preparing to be a nun.
An orphan, she has been brought up by the nuns in a remote convent. Before she is allowed to take her vows, she is encouraged to see her only living relative, her Aunt Wanda.
When the two meet, Wanda has shocking news. Anna is Jewish and, before her parents were killed during World War 2, she used to be called Ida.
Together, the two women go on a journey to discover what happened to their family and find out who they are and where they belong.
6. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a wonderfully atmospheric Iranian vampire film.
In a desolate city in Iran a woman stalks the streets. Dressed in a traditional black veil she is enigmatic and does not appear threatening - at least not at first.
However, before long she demonstrates an otherworldly threat, feeding on local residents and dishing out vengeance.
Despite this, the girl longs for a connection, to be part of something and to no longer be alone.
5. Of Gods And Men
Of Gods And Men And is a powerful and heartbreaking film about faith, friendship and sacrifice.
A group of French monks, living in The Monastery Notre-Dame de l'Atlas of Tibhirine in Algeria, come under threat from Islamist rebel groups fighting in the country’s civil war.
Algerian government officials warn the monks of the danger that they face from the rebels and urge them to leave their monastery. However, the monks are conflicted. They do not want to become easy targets and yet they are also deeply reluctant to desert their community.
Each monk must examine his faith and choose to stay... or to leave.
4. A Simple Life
Ah Tao has been devoted to Roger’s family since she was a teenager. Now in her seventies (and with most of the family now living in San Francisco) she lives with and takes care of Roger, a film producer.
She is a force to be reckoned with - loyal and protective, feisty yet incredibly warm. She is well known to the traders in her local market - who take delight in her eccentric, exacting standards.
However, when Ah Tao suffers a debilitating stroke the lifestyle that she loves and that Roger relies on falls apart. She can no longer look after Roger and, not wanting to be a burden, she asks him to move her into a care home.
Forced apart, the maid/master relationship melts away as both Ah Tao realise how much they mean to one another.
3. A Separation
Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi) are in trouble. Or, to be more precise, their marriage is in trouble and they are on the verge of separation. They have reached an impasse.
Simin wants to leave Iran and live abroad. She wants more opportunities for their 12 year old daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). However, Nader feels that he cannot leave his elderly father, (played by Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) who is increasingly debilitated by the ravages of Alzheimer's disease.
Simin cannot take her daughter out of Iran without Nader's consent. Nader does not want to give his consent. The couple, who in all other respects still care for each other, start to fracture.
Termeh is caught in the middle and the repercussions of their separation will have an devastating impact on the entire family.
2. Let The Right One In
Let The Right One In is a moving film about the difficulties of growing up… and the small matter of also being a vampire.
Oskar is a lonely, friendless boy who is being horribly bullied at school. One day, an enigmatic young girl called Eli moves into his apartment block and he starts to think he might have found an ally.
Eli warns Oskar that they cannot be friends and yet, despite this, the pair begin to form a close bond. Both feel different and very much on the outside.
Oskar then realises just how different Eli is - particularly after she tells him that she has been 12 for a very, very long time...
1. Pan's Labyrinth
Pan’s Labyrinth tells the dark and disturbing story of a young girl called Ofelia who moves, along with her heavily pregnant mother, to live with her stepfather on a rural military outpost in post-war (1944) Spain.
Her new home is full of danger, unimaginable cruelty and repression. Ofelia seeks refuge in her books about fairy stories and by wandering the woods nearby. It is here that she discovers a labyrinth that is home to a collection of otherworldly, fantastical monsters.
The monsters believe that Ofelia is a princess, long lost to their world and promise her an escape from her miserable surroundings if she can fulfill three important tasks.
Have you seen any of these ten foreign language films? If so, which is your favourite? Is your best loved subtitled movie absent from this list?
Whatever the case, let me know what you think by leaving me a comment in the box below!
*I am aware that there are many other superb foreign language films out there and, if I haven’t watched them already, I hope to get to them all. However, this list is purely chosen from the movies I have watched during my challenge.