Hollywood has for years reigned supreme as the king of cinema; the biggest names, budgets, and blockbusters. Europe, despite being one of the world’s smallest continents – second only to Australia – offers an alarmingly diverse range of cultures and climates. This is thanks in part to its location – with countries nestled amongst African, Asian and Arctic regions – and it allows a wealth of cinematic variety from country to country. This article explores just a fraction of European cinema that has met international acclaim.
From The Middle
Central Europe has a dark history, with many countries being devastated by Nazi and Soviet action in the Second World War. Perhaps it is this bitter past which has given the region such a black, twisted sense of humour. Consider Hungary’s socio-political history through the eyes of director György Pálfi – featuring bestiality, professional speed-eating, and self-taxidermy – or Romania’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, in which director Cristi Puiu follows an old, lonely alcoholic trying to receive hospital treatment for an onset illness. Neither tale sounds particularly hilarious – and it must be said that in place of friendly gags and slapstick are lavish helpings of irony and metaphorical representation; humour is drier on the continent.
East Meets West
North of Hungary and Romania is very close to Poland, birthplace of director Krzysztof Kieślowski. Following a string of highly praised projects – including the bleak, ten-part polish TV series Dekalog – Kieślowski was given funding by France to produce the Three Colours Trilogy. The result is some of the most cinematically beautiful work to emerge on the big screen – an excellent script met with stunning visuals. Whilst on the subject of stylistic cinema, Spain’s Pedro Almodóvar deserves an honourable mention; pairing surreal melodrama with a glossy, fashion-driven cinematic style. His films always strike a chord with the arthouse community.
Into the Arctic
Far from the warm, tropical passion of the Mediterranean, films from the northern regions of Europe engage with more detached, isolated themes. Consider Swedish director Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In, Norway’s Bothersome Man (Jens Lien) or Iceland’s Nói albinói (Dagur Kári). The icy attitudes of these films are typically accompanied by hauntingly beautiful imagery and soundtracks.
European cinema is hard to summarise, being the mixed bag that it is. Regardless of the country, you will be guaranteed some startling cultural insights, and unforgettable images.
Photo: Deklofenak – Fotolia