Posts Tagged ‘drama’

Director: Jacques Audiard

Actors: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Reda Kateb

Un prophète

After seeing ‘Rust and Bones’ a few weeks ago, I decided to dig a little deeper in the works of its director Jacques Audiard. It seems that the man is anything but a one hit wonder. The story of ‘Un prophète’ could be compared to that of ‘Scarface’, as it also revolves around the the life of a nobody-thug who works his way up on the crime ladder to become a mafia kingpin. I would even go so far to call it a better version of the eighties-cult-classic. I know that might be a bold statement to many film fans, but this film has a more raw and real feel to it. Maybe the fact that Scarface seems a bit outdated when watching it now has something to do with it.

Malik is a nineteen-year-old smalltime French-Algerian criminal who gets sentenced to six years after beating up a cop. On arrival in prison, somewhere near Paris, he knows no one there, has no money and no protection. He gets singled out by the Corsican prison-crew to kill a snitch who is temporary transferred to the same prison. He gets the job done (in what is in my opinion an epic killing scene) and gradually finds his place in their gang, winning the trust of their leader César Luciani. Half way through his sentence, Malik occasionally gets a day off to leave jail, perfect for Luciani to use him as his errand-boy to take care of his business on the outside. But Malik also has his own little business on the side, trafficking drugs from Paris to Marbella.

Things start looking up for Malik, his role within the Corsican crew becomes more substantial and his trafficking-scam is flourishing. That is until he runs into a conflict of interest between his two ‘jobs’. He has to outsmart all parties within the prison walls: the Corsicans who ‘adopted’ him and the Arabs to whom he still is connected through his roots, as well as people on the outside. That’s why this is such a great movie: not only is the plot very clever, the portrayal of Malik, from a scared, helpless kid to a smart and confident mobster who rules them all, is magnificent and very up close and personal. You feel for him at first and you too will want him to succeed on his quest when you’re watching.

‘A Prophet’ won the BAFTA award for best non-English film in 2010 as well as the ‘Grand Prize of the Jury’ at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.

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Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

Actors: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep

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Laura grew up in an orphanage, she and her doctor husband adopted a nine-year-old boy Simon. The presence of this sweet-natured, imaginative boy in their lives has awakened complex feelings in Laura, as she herself was adopted too. So, driven by a need for closure, she has persuaded her husband to buy the old orphanage where she spent the first years of her life, and to be foster-parents there to six new orphans with learning difficulties.

The orphanage itself is an impressive Gothic-styled mansion, close to a rocky beach and the sea. A perfect horror-tale setting. On the day Laura and her family welcome the first new orphan arrivals, Simon disappears. Months pass by without any trace of her son until Laura decides to call for the help of a parapsychologist. She discovers that the orphan kids she grew up with are all dead and that their spirits still roam around the house. Laura remembers her son playing a riddle game with what she thought was an imaginary friend at the time. She now realizes that Simon was playing with one of the dead children, and in order to find him, she will have to play the riddle game too.

Although this film soaks in an horror-atmosphere, it is much more than that. It is much more elaborate than your average horror-movie and it is also an intelligent and compassionate drama about loss and death, and about following the departed into the void so they can be made to live again.

Director: Jacques Audiard

Actors: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts

de rouille et dos

Maybe better known under its English title ‘Rust and Bone’, French director Jacques Audiard based this story on the book bearing the same title by Canadian author Craig Davidson. It tells the story of Alain, who is in his mid-twenties and is the only parent to his 6 year old son Sam. Being unemployed, he leaves Belgium to go live with his sister in the South of France. Alain is an ex-boxer, he’s been in and out of trouble with the law and has trouble taking responsibility. He has no real relationships with the people around him, including his family. When landing in France, he gets a job as a bouncer at a local night club where he meets Stéphanie, who works at a local marine tourist park. Initially, their meeting is short and superficial and doesn’t lead anywhere, but when Stéphanie suffers a surreal accident at the water park where she works, she seeks to get in touch with him again.

This is one of those films that got stripped from all in-necessities. What is left is just a genuine, sometimes raw story about two every day people, superbly portrayed by both lead actors. It has that kind of pureness we lack so often in today’s film business. It doesn’t judge, there’s no good or bad, there’s just a story being told. As a viewer you are free to do whatever you want with that.

Audiard decided to go with Matthias Schoenaerts for the leading male role. Although initially, no professional actor was to play Alain. But after more than 200 unsuccessful auditions in numerous gyms and boxing clubs and after seeing Schoenaerts’ performance in “Bullhead’, he finally changed his mind, all for the best if you ask me.

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Actors: Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur

Cover of "The Lives of Others"

Yes, another German movie makes it on Moviemojoblog :-). That’s 2 in a row even. I can’t help it. It’s not like I’m doing it on purpose, but this film was on my ‘must see’ list for quite some time already and than I noticed it got an extremely high user rating on IMBD, placing it on the 61st spot on their top 250 of all time. More than enough reason not to put it off any longer… I’m glad I didn’t.

This is what it’s about: Gerd Wiesler is a cold-hearted, incorruptible captain of the East German secret police in East-Berlin during the mid-eighties. He conducts rigorous marathon- interrogations on citizens who are suspected to doubt or undermine the ideas of the Social Unity Party. He trains and screens young Stasi recruits and he monitors suspects in their homes by means of bugs, wires and cameras. One day he is ordered to find incriminating evidence against a well-known and respected play-writer, Georg Dreyman. Dreyman’s girlfriend is a famous theater actress who is being courted by a corrupt minister, Bruno Hempf, of the Social Party. Hempf knows she is involved with Dreyman and that in order to get her, he needs to get Dreyman out of the way. Since Dreyman is part of a high profile circle of writers and artists, and thus knows many dissidents, free-thinkers and possible enemies, Hempf believes he can be found guilty of something and be put away.

When Wiesler finds out that this is the actual reason why he is asked to watch Dreyman, he starts to slack for the first time. And when he actually finds some serious incriminating evidence against him, he faces a difficult dilemma. Obey the corrupt minister, or help the lovers.

Das Leben der Anderen is yet another German masterpiece that effortlessly claims its place among other German modern classics like Lola Rennt, Gegen die Wand, Das Boot and Der Untergang. It’s the story of a man who’s faith in a rigid system start to crumble, a system he served, in an almost robotic way, for most of his life. It gives a detailed insight into the methods used by the Stasi and how far they went to obtain personal information, or to quote Dreyman: “The state office for statistics counts everything; knows everything: how many pairs of shoes I buy a year: 2.3, how many books I read a year: 3.2 and how many students graduate with perfect marks: 6,347. But there’s one statistic that isn’t collected there, perhaps because such numbers cause even paper-pushers pain: and that is the suicide rate.” Privacy was non-existent in those days.

Das Leben der Anderen was the debut of director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (could a name sound any more German?). It scooped up both the BAFTA and the Oscar for best foreign movie in 2006. I didn’t even know that when I watched it, but it makes complete sense, it’s a real ‘must-see’.

Director: Marc Rothemund

Actors: Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs, Gerald Alexander Held

Actress Julia Jentsch as Sophie Scholl on tria...

Actress Julia Jentsch as Sophie Scholl on trial in Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sophie Scholl was a young, German woman who stood up to the Nazi regime. She joined the Nazi resistance group ‘The White Rose’ but got caught while distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets at the university of Munich in 1943. This German spoken film is a journey through her last six days, from the planning of the pamphlet distribution, to the arrest, the interrogation by the Gestapo, her trial and finally her execution.

While watching, a growing feeling of uneasiness came over me. At first, while being interrogated by the Gestapo, Sophie seems to be able to talk her way out of any involvement. She is about to get released, but at the very last moment gets called back by her interrogator. Things really start going downhill for Sophie from there on. Slowly but surely, you see the horrible reality dawning upon her: she is going to die. She can no longer mislead her interrogator, as evidence builds up against her. Her harsh trial is lead by a judge who obviously has no intention of giving Sophie and her companions any fair chance. But the most atrocious part to me was the medieval fashion the Nazis used to fulfill executions in those days.

This movie is unique in a way, as it is a rendition of the Nazi regime’s brutality and ruthlessness but seen from a different side, the German side. It shows how the Nazi regime wasn’t any more lenient for anyone with ideas that strayed from theirs, even amongst their own.

Director: Shane Meadows

Actors: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Vicky McClure

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Set in the grim Thatcher-era of the eighties, the story of young Shaun isn’t a happy one. He lives alone with his mother since his father died during the Falkland war. Shaun has no friends and his mom dresses him in old clothes, for which he gets picked on in school. But all of that ends when he meets Woody and his skinhead friends. They take little Shaun under their wings, put him in a proper skinhead outfit and give his head a thorough shave.

The funny thing about his odd skinhead bunch is that they are a multi-colored mix. Apparently a quite common phenomenon in the English skinhead culture of the eighties. They seem more preoccupied about their surreal wardrobes and pulling  harmless, mischievous pranks on each other than they seem about having any extreme political ideas as you would expect from them. Shaun fits in great and is happier than ever. But things are about to get more serious when an old gang-member returns from prison to join their little group.

This is England is a extraordinary portrayal of a little piece of English history and a touching, sometimes funny story about a lonely boy at the same time. It is imprinted with the raw eighties-English atmosphere, not only through its cinematography and costumes, but also by a great soundtrack. Even though it was his first ever part in a movie, Thomas Turgoose’s portrayal of the cheeky but yet sensitive Shawn is outstanding.

Due to it’s critical acclaim in the UK, a spin-off series was created called “This is England ’86”, “This is England ’88” and “This Is England ’90”. It is set in the years after the movie and contains the entire original acting crew. I must say I’m very anxious to get my hands on those as I want to know how young Shaun turned out.

Actors: Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu

Director: Tony Kaye

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From American History X- director Tony Kaye, comes a dark drama about a  teacher named Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody). Henry is a substitute teacher who wanders from school to school, never staying very long in the same place and that suits him fine since it keeps him from having any emotional attachment to his students and colleagues.

Henry is a man you grow to like, he’s got a certain sadness over him, tries to stay sane and to do the right thing despite the fact that the world around him is anything but a happy place. His grandfather is dying, most of his colleagues are on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the school he’s working at falls victim to a completely failing school system. On top of that his students have no hope for the future and seem to have lost all sense of decency and values. Still, willing or not, he seems to get trough to some of them. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Brody’s performance is without any doubt the major strong holder here. The movie itself might not dispose of the same magnificence as, let’s say ‘The Pianist’, but his performance sure as hell does. Brody confirms he is an exceptional actor, in a role that is somewhat different than what we’re use to see from him. This flick isn’t going to leave you with a smile, but it will leave an impression and resonate in your head for quite a while.