Volker Schlöndorff – Die Blechtrommel AKA The Tin Drum [Director’s Cut] (1979)

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“A country unable to mourn,” Volker Schlöndorff wrote in his journal as he adapted Günter Grass’ novel, The Tin Drum. “Germany, to this day, is the poisoned heart of Europe.” When the film premiered in West German cinemas in early May 1979, it figured within a country’s larger (and, in many minds, long overdue) reckoning with a legacy of shame and violence. Indeed, the Nazi past haunted the nation’s screens, more so than it ever had since the end of World War II. The American miniseries Holocaust aired that year on public television in February and catalyzed wide discussion about Germany’s responsibility for the Shoah. Later that month, Peter Lilienthal’s David gained accolades at the Berlin Film Festival for its stirring depiction of a young Jewish boy living underground in the Reich’s capital during the deportations to the camps. History returned as film; retrospective readings of the Third Reich by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Edgar Reitz, Helma Sanders-Brahms, and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (among others) would become the calling card of the New German Cinema and bring this group of critical filmmakers an extraordinary international renown. In 1979, The Tin Drum won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. A year later, it would become the first feature from the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) to receive an Oscar for best foreign film. Continue reading

Srdjan Dragojevic – Lepa sela lepo gore AKA Pretty Village, Pretty Flame (1996)

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Plot:

At the Belgrade army hospital, casualties of Bosnian civil war are treated. In the hospital they remember their youth and the war. Two young boys, Halil, a Muslim, and Milan, a Serb, have grown up together near a deserted tunnel linking the Yugoslav cities of Belgrade and Zagreb. They never dare go inside, as they believe an ogre resides there. Twelve years later, during the Bosnian civil war, Milan, who is trapped in the tunnel with his troop, and Halil, find themselves on opposing sides, fatefully heading toward confrontation. Continue reading

Marc Rothemund – Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage AKA Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)

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Sophia Magdalena Scholl (May 9, 1921 – February 22, 1943) was a prominent member of the White Rose non-violent resistance movement in Nazi Germany. She was convicted of treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans. As a result, they were both executed by guillotine.

Since the 1970s, Scholl has been celebrated as one of the great German heroes who actively opposed the Third Reich during the Second World War. Continue reading

Maroun Bagdadi – Hors la vie AKA Out of Life (1991)

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Patrick Perrault, a photo-journalist covering the war in Beirut in the late 1980s, is himself caught up in the hostilities when one day he is picked up and bundled into a car at gun-point. Blind-folded, he is taken to an unknown location where he discovers that he is being taken hostage by Lebanese guerrillas. Robbed of his passport, stripped and forced to change into a pair of damp pyjamas, he is locked up in a cell from which there is no escape. And he is told that if he takes of his blindfold to see his captors he will be shot dead immediately. So begins his long and brutal nightmare… Continue reading

François Ozon – Frantz (2016)

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Screwball comedy master Ernst Lubitsch took a rare stab at straight drama with 1932’s “Broken Lullaby,” the tense story of a soldier who attempts to make amends with the family of a man he killed in World War I. Preeminent French director François Ozon also wanders into unconventional territory with “Frantz,” his astonishingly beautiful and inquisitive remake of Lubitsch’s film, using it as a springboard for a profound look at alienation and grief. Continue reading

Lucian Pintilie – Un été inoubliable AKA An Unforgettable Summer (1994)

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In 1925 Romania, young Marie-Therese Von Debretsy refuses the flirtatious advances of her husband’s commanding officer. As a result, the cosmopolitan family is reassigned to a brutally bleak and dangerous outpost on the Bulgarian/Romanian frontier whereboth their relationship and humanity are severely tested. Continue reading