In light of recent events, this week I am not writing on a Year Abroad topic per se. With lockdown comes a great opportunity to brush up on your language skills by watching some cinematic gems, some of which you may not have even heard of. So hit the lights, sit back on your sofa with a bowl of popcorn and check out some of these foreign-language classics.
Amélie (2001) is a quirky and colourful romantic comedy fantasy about a woman who decides to change the world by changing the lives of others. After a tragic event Amélie, who has grown up in isolation because of a misdiagnosed heart condition, realises that life is fleeting and decides to bring a bit of happiness to those around her. It is a true feel-good film and will inspire you to look for happiness in the everyday.
Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes are Flying, Russian)
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this is an old Soviet film – this 1957 creation is a cinematic gem, which has been praised for its distinct ‘unsovietness’ and innovative cinematography for its time. This film, which is one of my absolute favourites, follows the romance of Boris and Veronika and the turmoil which Veronika goes through when Boris is sent off to fight in the Second World War. This is a unique portrait of human suffering and redemption in the Soviet Union which will captivate you from start to finish. You can watch this and other Russian films for free, with English subtitles, at cinema.mosfilm.ru
Keinohrhasen (Rabbit Without Ears, German)
This 2007 romantic comedy stars the German heavyweights of the genre, Til Schweiger and Matthias Schweighöfer. Schweiger plays Ludo, a journalist who is sentenced to do community service at a day care centre, where he is reunited with Anna, who runs the day care and who he also happens to know from his younger days. Schweiger’s own daughter, Emma, stars as one of the children at the day care, providing maximum cuteness and top comedy moments.
La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful, Italian)
This 1997 film has become a classic, both in Italy and worldwide. The story follows a Jewish father and his family, who are surrounded by Nazi death camps. Living in such an oppressive and hostile environment, he uses humour to protect his young son from the harsh reality of wartime life. This masterpiece will have you in both tears of laughter and sadness and is well worth a watch.
Spirited Away (Japanese)
Spirited Away is a beautifully-animated and well-scored masterpiece by the famous Studio Ghibli. The story follows Chihiro, a 10 year old girl, who stumbles upon an abandoned theme park with her parents. After her parents eat the food at the park, they are turned into pigs, and Chihiro meets the mysterious Haku, who explains that they have entered a spirit world and she must work to set her parents free. Released in 2001, this Oscar-winning film remains the highest grossing film of all time in Japan, and there is also an English dub available if you’re not feeling bold enough to give Japanese a go. Even if you’re not generally a fan of animated films, this is a great watch and you won’t regret it. It’s also available on Netflix right now, so what are you waiting for?
Hannah Klimas, Year Abroad Editor