There are few better ways to spend an evening than settling down to watch a good movie, and the beauty of cinema is that there are thousands of amazing creations to enjoy.
However, it’s worth remembering, when you’re weighing up which movie to watch tonight, that there is more to cinema than just US productions. World cinema has given us many spellbinding movies, so to help you explore the global world of movies, here is a selection of hidden gems to consider.
The White Ribbon (2009)
This is a thought-provoking German film, directed by Michael Haneke, set in a fictional German village shortly before the outbreak of World War One. The village is dominated by a puritanical pastor who forces all of the pubescent children who live there to wear white ribbons representing the purity and innocence that he wants them to feel guilty for losing. However, an outbreak of violent, unexplained incidents, including the death of a farmer’s wife and the murder of the pastor’s pet parakeet, bring an air of menace and mystery to this tale of the effects of repression.
Russia has often been seen as an enemy by the US, but as experts on US-Russian relations such as Angela Stent would tell you, there is much that the two nations have in common, including a love of cinema. The proud tradition of Russian cinema dates back to the movies exhibited by the Lumière brothers in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in 1896, and continued throughout the Soviet era and beyond, producing many of world cinema’s most memorable moments.
One of the more unusual hidden gems of Russian cinema came out of the late 1980s. Assa, by Sergei Solovyov, is set in the winter of 1980 and features multiple interweaving storylines. The movie is notable for its experimental scenes, including footnotes, surreal dream sequences, and performances by Russian rock bands. It is a remarkable piece of cinema from a time when the Soviet system was on the brink of collapse.
Holy Motors (2012)
Some of the most memorable movies are those that challenge our preconceptions of what a movie should look like, and Holy Motors, directed by Leos Carax, certainly comes into that category.
It stars Denis Lavant as Oscar, a man whose days are spent attending different appointments while disguised as different characters, which range from a female beggar to a musician. His most striking character is Monsieur Merde, a violent red-haired man who you won’t soon be able to forget! Throughout all of the character changes, the question of who the real Oscar is recurs, but the strength of this movie is in the imaginative cinematography and the extraordinary performance of Lavant.
Three Colours: Blue (1993)
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy was an attempt to capture the ideals of the French Republic, and Three Colours: Blue was the first of the movies to be released. Starring Juliette Binoche as the survivor of a crash in which her husband and daughter died, it is a haunting and memorable take on the process of coming to terms with the tragedy and letting go of the past, supported by a memorable musical score produced by Zbigniew Preisner.
Mientras Duermes (2011)
Directed by Jaume Balagueró, who is best known for the 2005 film Fragile, Mientras Duermes (Sleep Tight) is a taut, claustrophobic film bringing a new psychotic twist to the familiar fear of the unwanted flat-mate. In this case, the villain of the piece is played by Luis Tosar. Tosar plays a Madrid apartment concierge who, unable to feel happiness, dedicates his life to tormenting the residents of his building, including one woman, Clara, played by Marta Etura, who seems blissfully resistant to his methods, which include replacing her shampoo with cream that brings her out in a rash and infesting her apartment with cockroaches. However, when her boyfriend arrives, the psychotic drama takes a new twist. Tosar is compelling as the psychotic concierge, and this is definitely a movie that you will remember.
We can all enjoy the latest Hollywood blockbusters, but if you’re looking for a change of pace and something a little different, then world cinema contains hundreds of hidden gems just like these that will challenge, shock and delight you. Hopefully, these movies will inspire you to check out what other pleasures the wider world of cinema has in store for you.