Monday, April 23, 2012

Famous Foreign Films bring Laughter, Soul Searching, and Insight

"Tansy's Pride"

I’ve always enjoyed foreign films from the plays and comedies coming via BBS to America’s PBS to imports on the big screen. Like Shakespeare’s dialogue, the subtitles are a temporary impediment. Once you get used to the rhythm of speech and the nuances of character, reading while watching is a snap.

My most recent movie was “In Darkness,” filmed in Poland with Jewish, German, and Jewish actors. My husband and I were able to absorb the interaction of three languages and experience Nazi anti-Semitism at its worst.

Crowded in an underground sewer, we see the stress of the hunted testing each individual’s character to the limits. Their lack of simple amenities, the stink of the sewer, and their fear when the sewers were searched increases tension.

Man’s inhumanity to man was the thrust of the plot; balanced by refreshing scenes where kindness and empathy offered the hope that led to a positive conclusion. The movie was an authentic glimpse into the horrors of being a Jew under Hitler’s rule and rise to power. His insatiable hunger to conquer the world became brutal; his reactions savage.

We can learn from foreign films. There are vast differences between a Hitler and a Gandhi, for instance. One worked for his own aggrandizement, the other for the good of his country and his people.

"Skudeneshavn Norway

On a lighter note, the film “Life is Beautiful” shows another side to grim evil: Guido, a Jewish Italian waiter is sent to a Nazi Concentration Camp along with his wife and young son. “Refusing to give up hope, Guido tries to protect his son’s innocence by pretending that their imprisonment is an elaborate game, with the grand prize being a tank;” An uplifting look at the courage and optimism of the human spirit.

Another favorite: “Amelie” played by Audrey Tauton helps us understand the life of ordinary people in France. Amelie’ finds a long-hidden trove of toys behind a baseboard in her tiny apartment. She is inspired to give them a new look and offer them to the poor children in her area. Her impulse at generosity “sparks more benevolent acts” not only in her own life, but in the community. Amelie’ is a celebration of life and love. It reminds us that small wonders surround us if only we will look. A joy to watch.

“Babette’s Feast is filmed in Denmark. Two sisters turn down a chance to leave their small Danish town to remain and take care of their Pastor father and his small church. They realize all too soon their dismal future and the fact that they will never marry.

Thirty five years later, a French woman seeks refuge after losing everything. The sisters take her in. Everyone in the village is skeptical of this new stranger. Babette seeks to win them over by preparing an extraordinary feast in gratitude. A heartwarming endeavor “eclipsed only by her secret.”

Foreign films show us that in spite of our differences, we human beings are more alike than we can even imagine. Perhaps that’s why I not only enjoy watching films made in other countries, but I adore painting exotic and endearing scenes of fellow human beings. I like to illustrate how beautiful people everywhere show goodness, bring laughter and comfort, and have the capacity to uplift us through their humanity.