Don’t Be Afraid to Read Your Movies

For anyone who visits this blog on a regular basis – hopefully there’s a few people now 🙂 – or for anyone who knows me in the “real” world, my addiction to movies is fairly obvious. It’s hard to explain, my addiction, but watching movies is never boring and it allows me to explore not only the filmmaker’s imagination and experiences but my own as well. I just dig movies.

And over the years I’ve discovered that foreign movies are largely overlooked by American audiences. Why? From what people have told me, what I’ve overheard people say, and what I’ve read in reviews the main reason is people don’t like to read subtitles. My film-loving heart breaks when I hear or read that: those people have no idea what they’re missing out on.

Therefore, I felt compelled to share a small sampling of my favorite foreign movies. I’ve included their English title, their original title and their original language as well as the genre and a very brief recap so you know why I love these films and why you should definitely get over the whole “I don’t want to read; I just want to watch a movie” thing.

Antibodies (Antikörper, 2005) German
IMDb | Netflix | Amazon

Written and directed by Christian Alvart, Antikörper is listed first for a very good reason: It’s awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed this film and rank it up there right after The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. The acting was excellent and the last 15 minutes or so I was in complete nail-biting agony, nearly in tears, hoping for…well I don’t want to give anything away. Simply put, this is one of the best thrillers – American or Foreign – that I’ve seen in a long time.

NOTE: There is animal and child violence, a couple scenes are pretty graphic, too. However it is not gratuitous – it’s not violence for shock’s sake – and it keeps the tension and suspense at an almost unbearable level.

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[Netflix Watch Instantly on 8/9/2008]

 

Voice (Yeogo gwae-dam 4: Moksori, 2005) Korean
IMDb | Netflix | Amazon

VOICE is an uber creepy film written by Ik-hwan Choe and Joon-Seok Sol, and directed by Ik-hwan Choe. I had such bad heebies jeebies after watching this one that I left my bedroom light on all night. My one piece of advice to you is to just enjoy the ride; don’t try to take pit stops along the way to figure out what this means or why that’s there and so on. It’s really not that hard of a movie to get if you’re patient and wait for everything to reveal itself. There’s a lot of jumping around in time, but again, just be patient.

NOTE: There is actually very little gore or onscreen violence. However, the one slightly gory scene did make me cringe but not for the reason you might expect.

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[Netflix DVD rental on 7/25/2008]

 

House of Flying Daggers (Shi mian mai fu, 2004) Mandarin
IMDb | Netflix | Amazon

Written by Feng Li, Bin Wang, and Yimou Zhang, and directed by Yimou Zhang this film may be a little out there for some moviegoers but I thought it was amazing. Visually stunning, imaginative plot, terrific acting — just a great story. There’s action (martial arts), adventure, fantasy, romance and mystery so I cannot really label it for you.

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[Netflix DVD rental on 1/19/2006]

 

Evil (Ondskan, 2003) Swedish
IMDb | Netflix | Amazon

Based on the novel by Jan Guillou – screenplay written by Hans Gunnarsson Mikael Håfström and Klas Östergren – and directed by Mikael Håfström, this film will grip you from its opening scenes. Erik (Andreas Wilson) is a great character and he represents so many people, so many underdogs, fighting to survive in the world today that it’s nearly impossible not to empathize with him and hope for his future. Powerful themes are addressed and the violence really hammered home the story’s points. I loved this movie!

NOTE: The violence mentioned is not gory or gratuitous. It’s just realistic, brutal fighting.

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[Netflix Watch Instantly on 1/31/2010]

 

The Devil’s Backbone (El Espinazo del Diablo, 2001) Spanish
IMDb | Netflix | Amazon

This is a superb film, written by Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras and David Muñoz, and directed by Guillermo del Toro, who – in my opinion – is one of the best directors in the world. His films, including this one, never feel like only one genre. There’s horror, fantasy, and mystery elements that work seamlessly together to create a film that will scare the bejeezus outta you but also touch you deeply. I’m embarrassed it took me seven years to finally watch this movie.

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[Netflix DVD rental on 7/30/2008]

What’s your favorite foreign film? (any genre)

4 Comments:

  1. What, Leah likes movies. I never knew this. 🙂

    The Devil’s Backbone and House of Flying Daggers are both great choices. Haven’t seen the other ones you mentioned. My favorite foreign film is Black Christmas. Hey, it was made in Canada, that counts. Or if that’s not good enough, Let the Right One In, Grave of the Fireflies, and Talk to Her are what first come to mind.

  2. I always welcome recommendations on good foreign films (especially horror flicks) and always choose the subtitles over dubbing. That drives me nuts when people would rather watch washed out American remakes (n some cases) over the original. Wife loves Vanilla Sky but won’t check out Abre Los Ojos.

  3. @Geof:

    Thanks for leaving a comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the list. And I know what you mean – if only Americans realized how many tremendous films they miss because they don’t want to read subtitles. Many people think because they watched the American remake that they’ve watched the original film – just in English – but most times (like you said) the films are also Americanized and lose a bit of their “magic.”

    Take care,
    Leah

  4. I am English but live in The Netherlands, subtitles are a part of life over here. TV shows are not dubbed but subtitled, and not only did it help me learn the languange on my own fluently within a few years, but also means that they have a much wider appreciation of film in the country. I am a big fan of foreign movies and the one issue is that the dvd’s over here rarely come with English subtitles, which I am still more comfortable with. This being said, my Dutch is good enough to allow me to enjoy foreign movies to their full extent. Namely one on your list. The Devils Backbone. Great little movie.

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