Oftentimes, some of the finest movies have come from across the pond.
Three foreign movies that have attracted a great deal of attention in recent months are Of Gods and Men, In a Better World and Biutiful.
Since we have already reviewed Biutiful, we won’t dwell upon it here again but will instead pay homage in this post to Of Gods and Men and In a Better World.
In a Better World, winner of Best Foreign Film Oscar this year, is a Danish movie directed by Susanne Bier.
We’ve read one review of In a Better World (New Yorker, April 4, 2011, p.82-83) and going by that we’ll say the movie is not a feel-good time pass or action movie.
Au contraire, In a Better World is a movie that defies categorization into a neat pigeonhole of a genre.
Set in both Africa and Denmark, the movie explores violence, alienation, revenge, loneliness, sorrow, relationships and so many human emotions. All in 119 minutes.
We could tell you more but we won’t so that you don’t miss the beautiful element of surprise that, alas, is often not available to reviewers who read other reviews before watching a movie.
William Jøhnk Nielsen, who plays the Christian, one of two young boys with prominent roles in the film, has come in for lavish praise from some reviewers. Anthony Lane writes in the New Yorker:
Nielsen, in particular, turns the role of Christian into a drama all its own. He does something that would defeat actors three times his age; he starts off as handsome cub, and somehow loses his looks – or, at any rate, allows the inward snarl of desolation and wrath to steal across his face and wipe away the final trace of innocence. “Grownups look like children when they’re dead,” he says, from dreadful experience. And children who have witnessed death, we learn, grow up in front of our eyes.
By the way, In a Better World also won Best Foreign Language Film at the 68th Golden Globe Awards.
In a Better World has not made it to theaters yet and so we’ll have to wait for a short while to see this acclaimed gem.
Of Gods and Men
This French film came to our notice courtesy the Wall Street Journal, where Joe Morgenstern didn’t stint in his praise, calling it ‘one of the most beautiful movies I know.’
Directed by Xavier Beauvois and featuring French actors Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale, Of Gods and Men is about a bunch of Christian monks at an Algerian monastery threatened by Islamic terrorists.
Well, the subject certainly has some resonance given the violent times we live in.
By the way, the movie is said to be based on a true story touching upon some unpleasant events in 1995.
Here’s an excerpt from Morgenstern’s review:
More than anything, “Of Gods and Men” is a drama of character, and warm humanity. The terrorists are brutes, but recognizably human brutes. Father Christian is admirable, but not always accessible. (Or even comprehensible: after one of Christian’s teachings, Luc asks a brother, with sly humor, if he understood any of it.) Father Amédée has little to say—he may lack the clarity to say it—but his wide eyes and wizened face bespeak a lifetime of devotion. The most vivid character is Father Luc, and not only because Mr. Lonsdale is one of the great actors of our time. Luc personifies love. He loved women, he tells the village girl, until he found a greater love and responded to it. That response resonates, without a sound, in an exquisite moment that finds the weary old man touching—almost snuggling with—the figure of an anguished Christ on a monastery wall.
Of Gods and Men is already playing in select theaters in the U.S. and, God willing, we’ll see it one of these days and review it for you schmucks.
If you vaguely remember hearing that Of Gods and Men has won some big awards, you’re right.
The film won the Grand Prix, the second most prestigious award at the Cannes Festival. Of Gods and Men also won the César Awards 2011 for Best Film, Lonsdale as Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography. Of Gods and Men was France’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards, but failed to make the final shortlist (Source: Wiki).