A gentle, sensitive unfolding of a recovering drug addict given a day’s leave from his rehab centre for a work interview.
Leaving the centre determined to make a go of it, over the course of the day and night, Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie – The Worst Person in the World, Bergman Island) attempts to reconnect with family and friends. Welcomed by some, but for others memories of his heroin addiction and lives destroyed are too fresh.
Directed by Joachim Trier (The Worst Person in the World, Reprise), Oslo 31st August is surprisingly empathic towards the educated but self-centred addict. With more than a hint of existential angst as Anders struggles with purpose, Trier looks to a lucid, inner cry of pain as the everyday of normalcy crowds around him.
Formal yet timeless, an innocent, spoiled teenage girl sets out with her pregnant servant to deliver candles to church. But only one returns to the remote homestead.
In 14th-century Sweden, the indulged Karin (Birgitta Pettersson – Pojken i trädet, Salka Valka) insists on wearing her best finery to travel the 5 kms to the village. Accompanied by the jealous Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom – The Seventh Seal, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), they meet three goatherds who rape and kill Karin. The three men continue on their way where, by chance, they find themselves at the girl’s home and the guests of her father, Töre (Max von Sydow – Pelle the Conqueror, The Seventh Seal). On discovering what happened, he plans a terrible revenge.
Influenced by Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Ingmar Bergman’s (Wild Strawberries, Face To Face) classic interweaves morality and faith, humanity and atonement in this compelling if dour drama moodily shot in black and white.
Nominated for 2 Oscars in 1961 including best costume, won 1 for best foreign language film.
Richly and poignantly observed, Wild Strawberries is a coming-of-age slow burn as the widowed professor reflects upon an emotionally austere life.
A cold demeanour has seen Dr. Eberhard Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström – To Joy, Order) isolated from the world around him with only his housekeeper Agda (Jullan Kindahl – Smiles of a Summer Night, Bröllopsdagen) for company. But on being offered a honorary degree in his home town of Lund, a decision to drive rather than fly results in nostalgic reflection, helped by his travelling companion, daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin – Cries and Whispers, The Cassandra Crossing) and three hitchhikers they pick up on the way.
Writer/director Ingmar Bergman’s (Fanny & Alexander, Face to Face) nostalgic road trip with memory of missed love and a recurring dream with deeply disturbing surrealist imagery is earnest in its explorations yet engrossingly compelling.
Nominated for best original screenplay Oscar in 1960.
An extraordinarily confronting documentary, director Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing) continues his exploration of the 1965 Indonesian massacres and those responsible.
In a bold mise-en-scène, through optometrist Avi who lost a brother, murdered in the culling of ‘communists’, Oppenheimer interviews numerous men who ordered or carried out the mass killings. As Avi attempts to find out how a brother he never knew died, so current politicians and men of responsibility justify their actions. More than a million people were murdered: along with jokes, not one ounce of remorse or regret is present in the interviews.
As the horrors of reality and the acts of men are unveiled, a quietly restrained Avi gently probes and questions, looking for a flicker, a momentary realisation to no avail. Pauses, silences, reflection maybe but no regret – even to the brother of a murdered victim.
Nominated for the 2016 best documentary Oscar.
Regarded as one of the best films of 2021, Flee is a harrowing tale humanely told through its richly animated visualisation as Afghani refugee Amin unburdens his past.
Having been granted Danish asylum as a teenage boy on the basis of having lost all his family fleeing Kabul, Amin has never revealed the full truth. Having fled the Afghan capital, he and his family initially settled in Moscow. Overstaying their visa, they lived in fear and isolation. With the help of a considerably older brother already living in Stockholm, many attempts to leave failed. Eventually, an alone Amin was able to find a way out. It’s this Amin needs, on the eve of his marriage to Kaspar, to reveal.
Making history in becoming the first film to be nominated for best documentary, best foreign language film and best animation,Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee is powerful yet poetic, visceral yet matter-of-fact.
Nominated for 3 Oscars in 2022.
Set within the macho world of traditional Georgian dance with its feats of endurance and masculinity, And Then We Danced (directed by Levan Akin – Certain People, The Circle) subverts as Merab (an extraordinary Levan Gelbakhani) finds himself challenged by the arrival of potential rival, Irakli (Bachi Valishvili).
Passionate in its telling with glorious scenes in the rehearsal room, And Then We Danced is a powerful coming-of-age drama. Linked with Mary both personally and as a dance partner for many years and on the brink of joining the National State Dance company, a dormant sexuality is awoken within the extremely likeable Merab, putting his world entirely at risk.
A conventional narrative it may be, set within conservative Georgian society, but the heartwarming tale of And Then We Danced is one of personal rebellion and self identity with Merab finding unexpected support by a member of his family.
Over a four year period, Julie, a once high-achieving schoolgirl, navigates love, emotions and a sense of self in the gentle, nuanced Oslo-set feature from writer/director Joachim Trier (Louder Than Bombers, Oslo August 31st).
Told through a series of vignettes, The Worst Person in the World unfolds the frustrations and uncertainties of Julie (Renate Reinsve – Oslo August 31st, Ekspedisjon Knerten) and her relationship with graphic artist, Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie – Personal Shopper, Oslo August 31st). Stuck in a part-time position at a bookshop, the chaotic and unpredictable Julie finds herself unexpectedly leaving the intense, older Aksel for laid back Elvind (Herbert Nordrum – Amundsen, The King’s Choice). But even then, she’s not certain the right choice has been made.
To settle into family life or search for independence and meaning is Julie’s struggle in this intelligent, thought-provoking narrative. It is guilty of meandering – and unfolds into something of a talkfest. But, with a strong performance from Reinsve (winner of best actress at Cannes), The Worst Person in the World is satisfying with its life of contradictions and possible atonement for wrong decisions.
Nominated for 2 Oscars in 2022 – best original script and foreign language film.
In the late 1990s, two South Africans set out to discover information about the legendary Rodriguez, an American folk singer who sold records in the hundreds of thousands during the apartheid era. Unlike most musicians of the 70s/80s where information was readily available, Rodriguez was barely known even by the local record label.
With extraordinary rumours circulating of Rodriguez having killed himself live on stage years earlier, Cape Town record shop owner Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman and music journalist Craig Bartholomew Strydom set out to find the truth. Their search reveals so much for Detroit-born Sixto Rodriguez, his family and record producers of the early albums that proved to be huge hits in South Africa.
In Searching for Sugar Man, director Malik Bendjelloul follows the standard documentary template of incorporating archival footage, interviews current and past along with its straightforward telling. And what a story as a man consigned to inexplicable obscurity following the release of two albums finds himself centre stage for the first time in his life.
Winner of the Oscar for best documentary in 2013.
Isolation and boredom leads to confrontation in a desolate, almost exclusively male, Danish limestone mining community.
Lonely and eccentric, Emil (Elliott Crosset Hove – Weak Days, TV’s The Bridge) lives with his brother, Johan (Simon Sears – Northern Lights, Baby Fever) and makes moonshine on the side. When a co-worker falls sick, Emil’s illicit alcohol is blamed with violence and ostracisation the result.
Director Hlynur Pálmason (Godland, A White White Day) lingers on the grunge of a mining lifestyle (supported by the industrial percussive soundtrack from Toke Brorson Odin) in creating a convincing backdrop to a less convicing narrative. In the study of masculinity at its rawest, Winter Brothers misses the visceral heart as it looks to the oddness of Emil and his coping of being alone among many.
Early feature from Ingmar Bergman (Face to Face, Fanny & Alexander) is eloquent yet unexpectedly funny (at times) considering its a medieval tale about religion and the existence of God.
A knight returning to Sweden from the Crusades (a young Max von Sydow – Pelle the Conqueror, Extremely Close & Incredibly Loud) finds himself playing chess with the Grim Reaper as he questions his own personal beliefs and the world around him. Accompanied by jocular squire, Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand – Autumn Sonata, Wild Strawberries), Antonius Block travels a bleak, grim road in returning home.
Haunting (black & white) imagery with a meditative view of the knight’s quest results in a film of message and thought. It may lack immediacy but its visuals will stay in the mind.