Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Look At Four Foreign Films

When you've got the travel bug but no money to escape... my solution; watch a foreign film. It will most likely leave you still yearning to leave home but at least it gives you a couples of hours to feel like you're not in the confides of a boring suburban town. I have a tendency to watch French and German films so I have decided to listen to some different languages for a change.

Trishna (2011)

Trishna is an Indian/British film based on Thomas Hardy's classic novel, Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Having not read Hardy's novel nor knowing anything about it meant I went into this movie not knowing what to expect. There seem to be mainly positive reviews of the adaptation and I have to agree with them.

It starts out as a love story between a poor Indian woman (Trishna) and a wealthy British man (Jay) who is the son of a wealthy hotel owner. But things take a bad turn in the second half for the young lovers when Trishna sees Jay for who he really is.

I love the setting of India, you get to see so many different locations of this beautiful country. The locations of the lavish hotels are beyond beautiful. But the parallels between rich and poor are so devastating but also expected. I was so swept up by all the scenery and colour that I was immediately in a trance from beginning to end.

It's a tragic story that leaves you with an ambiguous ending that is a little frustrating.

Carne trémula/Live Flesh (1997)

This Spanish film, set in Madrid, comes from the ever so talented Pedro Almodóvar, who I have become obsessed with ever since seeing All About My Mother and The Skin I Live In.

This film stars a very young Penelope Cruz who has featured in many of Almodóvar's films as well as Javier Bardem who is now married to Cruz. Live Flesh tells the story of troubled youth Victor who pursues a girl only to be rejected and then ends up in jail due to tragic circumstances. His dreamgirl ironically ends up married to the cop (Bardem) who played a part in Victor ending up in jail. What follows is finding out whether Victor will take revenge on this happy couple or not.

When watching an Almodóvar film you got to be prepared for some raunchy sex scenes, Live Flesh is definitely no exception. His films are very raw and real, never shying away from a story that will most likely confront you as a viewer.

I will always be in awe of Almodóvar's creations, I am eager to see many more of his films. And I always love hearing the Spanish language.

Dayereh/The Circle (2000)

I realise this is a post about watching foreign films as a form of escapism, so maybe Iran might not be your ideal destination, but the films that are coming out of Iran are so important and incredibly moving, I had to include one in my list. Last year I saw A Separation and the film adaptation of the graphic novel Persepolis; both films set in Iran, both stayed with me long after the viewing. I think Jafar Panahi's The Circle will have the same effect.

This film opens with the birth of a baby girl, to the dismay of the grandmother, her daughter was supposed to have a baby boy. In a long opening shot we are then introduced to three women who are hiding from police authorities... but why? The focus is gradually shifted to one of the women and then we are introduced to three other women in the film, each with a different story to tell. All women are poorly treated in their country, as all women seem to be in Iran. Women cannot ride a bus alone without a companion, they cannot get an abortion without the permission of the father, they cannot smoke in public, they must wear a chador in certain circumstances, etc. It's quite appalling to see this in the 21st Century, and as far as I know, things aren't much better today and the film is still banned in Iran.

The Circle is a great title for this film as it is a constant theme in the film. It is definitely worth a re-watch to see how many times this use of the circle comes up, some obvious some, not so obvious. But pay close attention to the opening scene because the ending is very resonant to the opening and the film comes in full circle.

Så som i himmelen/As It Is In Heaven (2004)

I really wanted to like this movie. I really did. Instead I just felt annoyed and aggravated by it.
This movie reads like something your parents/grandparents would want to watch. It's meant to be a real feel-good/uplifting film, but it's actually kind of a downer. Why is everyone in this town so miserable??? Sure they're isolated and it's winter for the most part of the film, but nothing goes right for them. And then Daniel, a famous composer, comes to town to save the day by coordinating the choir! Sure he makes them happy and they 'love him' but he causes even more drama to their little village. Ehhhh.

There are so many stereotypes in this film; the wife who gets beaten by her husband, many insecure characters, the girl who just can't meet the right guy, the crazy priest and his quiet wife, blah blah. And then there's a love story between two characters, which I just wasn't buying and wasn't at all moved by their little cliché lines they spoke to each other. And just when the characters start to look happy, something awful is thrown into the mix. Whoever wrote this script was throwing in too many storylines, too many characters and not enough development for most. In one scene, for example, we see a member of the choir (who hasn't spoken up until this point) all of a sudden stating he loves a fellow choir member (who we haven't noticed until now either). Her reaction is a frown and then she walks out of the room. A few scenes later we see them hugging and kissing being cheerful... whaaaaa??? 

I really don't understand why this film was such a huge success in Sweden, and globally on top of that. It's basically just a bunch of clichés thrown into one terrible script. Seriously, don't bother.