How to Get Into Foreign Films

Have you ever wished your taste in films was a little more…. pretentious? I know I have. It seems like a very ‘Bristol’ thing to wish for, doesn’t it? Fortunately for me, I love watching foreign-language films. A lot of people reject them straight off the bat because they don’t want to watch something with subtitles, but I urge you to give them a go. You will get used to watching subtitles surprisingly quickly. Watching films from other countries can give you a taste of other cultures, inspire you, make you want to travel and open your eyes to many different styles of film making, as well as, of course, making your taste in films sound cooler.

While I don’t claim to have seen every foreign-language film out there, and I must confess to having absolutely hated Amélie, as well as other popular French films such as Breathless and Jean de Florette, here are some of my recommendations. Pro tip: get a friend who does Modern Languages to take you to the Multimedia Centre where we have a wall of DVDs and a cinema room to view in style.

1) Das Leben der Anderen

  • Language: German
  • Themes: politics, humanity, spying.
  • Best bits: the great use of dramatic irony. The cry-inducing ending.
  • Watch if you enjoyed this American film: The Usual Suspects

2) Pan's Labyrinth 

  • Language: Spanish
  • Themes: fantasy, war, rebellion.
  • Best bits: Incredible cinematography. The cry-inducing ending.
  • Watch if you enjoyed this American film: Bridge To Terabithia

3) Life Is Beautiful

  • Language: Italian
  • Themes: World War II, father and son relationships.
  • Best bits: Unbelievable displays of human strength from the protagonist, Guido. This film will stay with you for a long time.
  • Watch if you enjoyed this American film: Up

4) Hidden

  • Language: French
  • Themes: stalking, the past coming back to haunt you.
  • Best bits: That moment in Majid’s flat.
  • Watch if you enjoyed this American film: The Sixth Sense

5) The Motorcycle Diaries

  • Language: Spanish
  • Themes: freedom, self-discovery.
  • Best bits: All of it. This film might change your life.
  • Watch if you enjoyed this American film: Into The Wild

6) Kung-Fu Hustle

  • Language: Chinese
  • Themes: martial arts
  • Best bits: some of the most surreal fight scenes I’ve ever seen.
  • Watch if you enjoyed this American film: Kill Bill

The world of film is officially your oyster. If you enjoy older films, try something by Sweden’s legendary Ingmar Bergman or France’s François Truffaut. If you enjoy horror, you’ll want something Japanese; their horror films have a cult following. If your favourite television shows are what you might class as ‘guilty pleasures’, try a Korean TV show such as Miss Korea or The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince. My ultimate film snob pick: the first feature film to be filmed entirely within the Kingdom of Bhutan, Travellers and Magicians.


Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6