Whilst Hollywood blockbusters tend to take up most of any film-related headlines, there are many hidden gems to be discovered in the realm of world cinema. Inviting an audience to experience an entirely different culture to what they are used to, world cinema allows us to live vicariously through film in countries we have never been to before, with different political climates, and sometimes against the backdrop of crucial historical events. With world cinema, you can be a globetrotter from the comfort of your own home!
Parasite made headlines in 2020 after it became the first non-English film to win the prestigious Best Picture category at the Academy Awards, as well as scooping Best Director for Bong Joon-Ho, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature. Premiering at Cannes Film Festival, Parasite is an amalgamation of dark comedy and horrifying thriller and is best experienced without any prior knowledge or information about the film. So, if you’re interested in watching this highly acclaimed 2019 release, we urge you to not watch the trailer!
Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)
Cléo de 5 à 7 is one of the defining films of the French new wave era, directed by Agnès Varda. The film follows the titular character, Cléo, a self-centred young woman, as she waits for some test results, which could prove grave and sinister. A sense of foreboding follows this aspiring songstress and ultimately forces her to undergo a pivotal transformation in the face of some terrible news. If you love all things French, you will admire Cléo’s stroll through the streets of Paris as she tries to figure out who she truly is.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
This Guillermo del Toro film is a Spanish-Mexican co-production, set in Spain, against the backdrop of the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Whilst this fantasy-adventure movie employs whimsical and magical elements to create a mythical world, it is the fusion of our real world that generates a unique experience for the audience. Pan’s Labyrinth is the perfect example of why spectators should watch world cinema, as it often takes more risks and provides a unique viewing experience, as opposed to only watching Hollywood blockbusters.
Chungking Express (1994)
Chungking Express, directed by Wong Kar-Wai, is a mash up of both comedy and drama, consisting of two separate stories, set in central Hong Kong. The overarching theme of Chungking Express is love, loneliness and heartache; the first protagonist, known as Cop 223, is desperate for company in the wake of a breakup with his girlfriend, and the second protagonist, Faye, obsesses over Cop 663, who has also broken up with his girlfriend. Both protagonists take matters to extremes, Cop 223 eats multiple expired tins of pineapple, and Faye breaks into Cop 663’s apartment to get to know him. Chungking Express is a wonderfully eccentric film that also has some more earnest undertones.
Ladri di biciclette (1948)
Ladri di biciclette, also known as Bicycle Thieves, is an Italian neorealism film directed by Vittorio De Sica. This film is set in the aftermath of World War II in Rome and details the story of a man and his family’s struggles with poverty. Unemployment is rife, so our protagonist, Antonio, is offered a lifeline in the form of a job putting up advertisement posters – only if he has a bike. The family pawns one of the only things they have left, their dowry bedsheets, to get Antonio a bike, which is stolen on his first day of work. Along with his son, Bruno, Antonio searches all over Rome for his lost bicycle, his hope diminishing with each minute it is gone.
Let us know in the comments what your favourite non-English film is.
Caitlin Hall is a freelance writer who is currently studying for an English Literature degree at the University of York. A film enthusiast whose favourite film is Zodiac (2007), primarily because she loves Jake Gyllenhaal. More of her reviews can be found at https://caitsfilms.wordpress.com and her twitter account is @caitonfilm.