Had enough of Hollywood blockbusters stuffed full of poor performances, awful action scenes, pathetic plots and offensive CGI? Then maybe it’s time you tuned into some of the best European films ever made.
Yes sir ladies and gents, it’s high time you put down your popcorn, threw away your coke, and picked up a cappuccino and croissant instead, as we say goodbye to Hollywood and hello to movies made outside of “la la land.”
The Seventh Seal
Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 Swedish masterpiece is quite literally overflowing with iconic scenes which have been parodied and paid homage to in everything from music videos to comedy shows.
With a title referring to a darkly dispiriting passage in the Book of Revelation, The Seventh Seal is no barrel of laughs, but it did make its director famous and gives the viewer plenty of food for thought in a movie where “death” has never looked cooler.
In short, the film tells the tale of a disillusioned knight (Antonius Block) who on returning from the Crusades decides to spend his time playing a long drawn out game of chess with the grim reaper in a Medieval world ravaged by despair, disease, and famine.
You can guess who wins the game, but the mood and spirit of this uniquely atmospheric study in humanity are best summed up when Death asks Block, “Do you never stop asking questions?” To which Block who seems to be buzzing on an existential despair of Nietzche-like proportions replies, “No! Never!”
Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 film struck a chord with angry young men all over the world, not just in the banlieues of Paris where this edgy black-and-white movie is set.
This documentary-like movie revolves around 24 hours in the life of three friends from a multi-ethnic French housing project. One is a wannabe gangster obsessed with Travis Bickle and a desire to kill a cop. The other is a small-time drug dealer and boxer who is a contemplative and philosophical soul and wise enough to know that “La haine attire la haine!”, “hatred breeds hatred.” And the third is a happy-go-lucky type who lacks his friend’s extremes of personality but possesses more of a joie de vivre spirit.
Needless to say, after a trip to Paris where they encounter sadistic police, racist skinheads, and the petty bourgeois, it all ends badly for our three musketeers of disenchanted youth.
This controversial 2004 film by Oliver Hirschbiegel depicted Hitler like we’ve never seen him before. Insane, charming, suffering, angry, broken, thoughtful, pathetic, barbaric, kind, selfish, and delusional. In short, the movie takes history’s most famous monster and introduces a human element.
Set in the Fuhrer’s Berlin bunker during the final ten days of his reign, the film captures the decadence, despair, and surreal quality which must have been inherent to such an environment.
Bruno Ganz is acting perfection personified as Hitler, and his many rants compellingly encapsulate the full force of the fury which drove one man to drag the world into a darkness without equal.
Guillermo del Toro’s true genius in Pan’s Labyrinth is to create a genuinely believable world where reality and fantasy coexist in a dark and magical place that is not quite a fairy-tale and not quite a nightmare.
Set in Spain five years after the Civil War the film contains many memorable creatures who are fearful, fantastical and fanatical. The compelling Captain Vidal clearly falls into the latter category.
The fascist soldier is truly captivating as the murderous stepfather of Ofelia, who believes she is the Fairy Princess Moanna, daughter of the King of the Underworld. Things “pan” out like an opium-influenced poem and it’s one of those rare films which actually truly enchants the viewer.
Filmed in America by Wim Wenders and said to have been Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain’s favorite film, Paris, Texas poignantly captures the scars which are left on the human heart by the tracks of time and the timeless quest for redemption and meaning.
Harry Dean Stanton is at his most weary, lost and resigned best as Travis Henderson who is an amnesiac trying to put his life together again after mysteriously wandering out of the Mojave Desert.
Hooking up with his 7-year-old boy (Hunter) who he abandoned four years earlier, father and son embark on a trip to find their respective wife and mother. During the journey, the two become closer and when at last Hunter finds his wife working as a stripper in a Houston club, it lays the groundwork for a very evocative ending in a film which holds a mirror up to the chaos and dysfunctional nature of modern relationships.
[Featured Image by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for #ActuallySheCan]