Monday, 16 December 2013

My Top Three Films of 2013

Cinemas, theatres, concerts, art galleries, and so on, are all great places to escape from the world a bit. Visiting these places were regular occurrences for me when I was living in Cambridge, England. To lose oneself in a painting or within the depths of music is almost a sort of preservation method. Being able to get away "from it all" and turn the mind to something else besides the drudgery of the everyday is something I both need and relish. To celebrate art in all its wonderous forms is a lovely thing.

For me, the cinema is almost a weakness - much like bookshops. I can hardly pass one without going in. When I travel I usually make a point of checking what films are playing, as foreign cinemas can be quite fun! (Especially when you realise only too late that the entire film has been dubbed...thank you, Germany...). With a cinema, I prefer the small, independent types that are usually cosy and slightly funky. 

Now, here are some of the films that I saw in 2013; I hope you will indulge me by reading on - you never know, there might be something for you! Here are my top three:

Jagten (The Hunt): I will admit I am somewhat obsessed by all things Scandinavian...However this Danish film is incredibly well done. It left me thinking back to it for weeks. The acting was superb and Mads Mikkelsen did a great job in this difficult story. It isn't an easy film (and not because of the subtitles), but the subject matter. Mikkelsen plays a teacher, Lucas, who is accused of indecent actions in a kindergarten. The child who told the lie (yes, the audience knows the entire time that it isn't true, which makes it all the more painful to watch his journey), is the daughter of Lucas' best friend. In a small community, the rumours and mistrust spread like wildfire, and Lucas' life begins to spiral out of control. The film is riveting; true to Danish filming style, the landscape is bleak, and scenes understated. Aficionados of Scandinavian films/tv series will recogonise a few faces.
(I did actually see this in Dec 2012, but it was released in most of the world in 2013...)

The Great Gatsby: I would categorise this as the most surprising film of the year. I went in to it with a "well, we'll see..." feeling, since I loved the book and the first film with Robert Redford (Redford in a cream suit...what's not to like!?). Typical of director Baz Luhrmann, the film had been spiced up with modern music, and in the trailer it looked as if all the debauchery in 1920s New York was being let loose at Gatsby's party. (Which it probably was...) So, I was nervous to say the least. It could be good, or it could be a mistake. For me, it came somewhere in the middle - neither brilliant, nor a mistake, just somewhere happily in between. The casting, I think, was inspired - Leonardo DiCaprio did a wonderful job as Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan played Daisy, Gatsby's former lover, very well indeed. The film is beautifully shot, but the costumes rather hit you over the head, screaming, "This is the 1920s!" Still, beautiful clothes, and anyway, I'm a sucker for well dressed men and jauntily set hats...The modern music somehow worked, and I left the cinema feeling relieved - it hadn't been ruined, merely reinterpreted in a pleasing way. (Unlike the catastrophe that is The Hobbit...)

And finally, perhaps the best for last:

The Book Thief: I saw this film on a cold evening in Washington DC in a lovely little cinema on E Street. I had just come from the Holocaust Museum, making this film all the more poignant. I had read the book years and years ago - the style is odd, and the story dances along an unusual time line, but I flew through it, enjoying it very much. So, as always with books that have been made in to films, I was slightly apprehensive.
With a great cast, the story follows a young German girl called Liesel (the book thief), just before the Second World war, and through the wars years. The story is narrated by the lovely deep timbre voice of Roger Allam - the narrator is in fact Death, which is such a unique perspective. Geoffrey Rush is wonderful as Papa, but the two children who play Liesel and her best friend, Rudy, by far stole the show. They will be ones to watch out for in the future of film-making! What struck me most in both the book and the film is how reading and writing are so important for Liesel, and how she uses this as a weapon. It's as if reading allows her to hold on to humanity. She learns the power of words from Max, the Jewish man they have hiding in the basement. The story is a tear jerker and leaves you thinking - this film really shows the humanity of people... and how it shines through in times of dire inhumanity.

So, these are my top three for 2013 - they are closely followed by Django Unchained (Tarantino doing what he does best!), Star Trek: Into Darkness (Benedict Cumberbatch is a villain with the loveliest voice since Alan Rickman in Die Hard); also Summer in February, mainly for Dan Stevens wearing lots of woolly jumpers and it being about Cornwall's school of painters. And 2013 isn't over yet - I still have more films to see that have come out recently!

I'd certainly recommend these however, and encourage you to see them. If you have seen them, I would be interested to hear your take on them!