In a previous article, I wrote about some classic films that should be essential for University of Dallas students to view at some point in their lives. This article provides some recommendations for classic films from other parts of the world. Three of the four films are from more recent times, and thus contain modern cinematic appeal to viewers despite language barriers.
“Life is Beautiful”: This Italian film is the second-highest grossing foreign film in the United States, and won three Oscars. It tells a story placed within the World War II Holocaust. However, it is not just a sad tale of death, but a hopeful tale of finding light in the darkest places. The film centers on the young Italian father Guido Orefice as he along with his wife and son are deported to a concentration camp. Guido is a funny and imaginative character who won the heart of his wife through his antics. Now, in the concentration camp, Guido uses his talents to convince his son that the concentration camp is really just a complicated game. Guido becomes a spot of joy within the dire straits of the Holocaust, and his creativity eventually saves his son’s life. The movie is heartbreakigly powerful, displaying the incredible impact humor can bring to another’s life.
“Amélie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain)”: Amélie is the highest grossing French film in the U.S., was nominated for five Academy Awards, won the European Film Awards for Best Film, and was named one of the 1,000 best films ever made according to The New York Times. The film portrays the life of the young woman Amélie living in Montmartre, Paris. Amélie was homeschooled from an early age by a father withdrawn from society, and thus developed a creative imagination to entertain herself. As an adult working as a waitress, Amélie develops a passion for using her creativity to help others out of their unhappy outlooks on life. Eventually, Amélie’s efforts circle around to benefit herself, and Amélie finds her own true love.
“Andrei Rublev”: The oldest film on this list, Andrei Rublev is a 1973 film portraying the story of an iconographer in medieval Russia. This film is one of the Vatican’s 45 recommended films for Catholics, one of Empire’s 100 Best Films of World Cinema, and was awarded Best Film from the Jussi Award. This complex tale recounts the life of Andrei Rublev, a monk, and the simple-minded woman he cares for, Durochka. The plot weaves through the politics of warring Russia, and centers around the violent destruction of icons and sacred images. The events cause Andrei to give up painting and take a vow of silence. However, after Andrei helps a young man save the city, Andrei realizes he is meant to use his talents as an iconographer and he breaks his vow of silence. The film ends with displaying the real-life Andrei Rublev’s icons. The film ensures that you will never look at a religious icon quite the same way again.
“Director Andrei Tarkovsky visualizes brilliantly the story of a devout man seeking through his art to find the transcendent in the savagery of the Tartar invasions and the unfeeling brutality of Russian nobles,” The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops said.
“Grave of the Fireflies”: This Japanese war drama is ranked 12th in Total Film’s 50 Best Animated Films, and 10 in Time Out’s list of best 50 WWII movies.
“[The movie is] an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation,” the Chicago Sun-Times said.
The film tells the story of two siblings surviving in Kobe, Japan, during the final days of WWII. Unlike the other movies on this list, “Grave of the Fireflies” is animated, partly due to concerns that the war-torn landscape and convincing child actors would be impossible to find for the film. The story begins with the spirits of Seita and Setsuko reminiscing over the events of WWII. After their mother had died of burns from bombing in Kobe, the two had gone to live with their aunt for food and shelter. Since the supply of food had lessened, the aunt had grown to resent Seita and Setsuko for eating the food in her house, and eventually the two siblings decided to live on their own. The siblings catch fireflies for light in their makeshift home, but they awaken the next day to find the insects dead. Setsuko buries the fireflies and wonders why everyone seems to die around them. The two siblings also eventually die from malnutrition, but are shown to live happily in the afterlife with their fireflies looking down upon modern Japan.