I know too many people who will disregard a film because it is ‘foreign’. We seem to think that watching a French film is pretentious (cue ‘Bleau’) that watching an Iranian film is irrelevant or watching an Italian film that no one else knows about is pointless, if it were any good there would be a remake in English right?
To some extent this is true, leading to somewhat pointless remakes of films such as ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, which David Fincher directed in 2011 after the success of Niels Arden Oplev’s Swedish original in 2009. Most people didn’t realise there had been a Swedish original, still less bothered watching it, missing out on some truly brilliant performances from Noomi Rapace and Sven-Bertil Taube instead watching an ultimately needless remake with Daniel Craig.
Our belief that reading subtitles is in some way beyond our scope of capabilities, is what is genuinely keeping us from some of the best film experiences available. Without realising it we are desperate for the filming excellence that Europe has to offer, while insisting that they change the format to fit our delicate eyes and ears, for example we want to watch more from Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of ‘The Bridge’, but demand that he write a series in English ‘Marcella’ (still with a Polish cinematographer and Scandinavian director I might add).
Now, while I’m not suggesting that every foreign film is the best thing in the world (sorry ‘Tres Colores’ series, never again) I am suggesting that we need to perhaps abolish the category of ‘foreign film’ and, instead, just focus on how amazing the film is!
For example, my weekend was filled with watching ‘Life Is Beautiful’, an Italian film directed and starring Roberto Benigni, which is a bit like’Its a Wonderful Life’ meets ‘Schindlers List’. Benigni gives a fantastic performance as Guido, the happiest man alive who wins the heart of the woman he loves in 1939 facist Italy. Eventually Guido and his son are taken away to a concentration camp, what follows is a heart warming, tear-jerking and amazing story of the triumph of love in the most desperate circumstances.
Not only does Guido’s wife Dora, played by Nicoletta Braschi, follow her husband and son into the camp in order to be near them, despite being separated, but Guido spends the entire time with is son treating the concentration camp like a game. Through the worst times Guido’s bravery shines through in his endless ability to make his son laugh in the most tragic comedy ever to grace the big screen.
Roberto Benigni won an Academy Award for best actor, not best foreign film, showing what can happen if we allow amazing film to transcend its language and take the place of excellence it deserves. It’s films like this, and many others, that we need to take seriously if we are to keep British Film alive, not to mention if we are to keep having amazing films to watch!
I will post more reviews about some of the best foreign language films I’ve seen, but for now, go watch ‘Life Is Beautiful’!
(images courtesy of Google)