A look at some popular movies produced in different European countries reveals a fascinating mixture of themes. If you want to get a glimpse of a country’s culture and way of thinking, the following films are good places to get started.
La Vita è Bella (Italy)
Translated to English as Life is Beautiful, this extraordinary 1997 Italian comedy-drama won the hearts of millions of movie-lovers all over the world. It was directed and co-written by Roberto Benigni, who also stars as Guido, a Jewish Italian who tries to hide the true nature of a concentration camp from his son. He partly based it on the light-hearted stories his father told him to lessen the impact of the war.
It remains one of the highest-grossing non-English movies in the US and earned some $230 million around the globe. Life Is beautiful also won a string of prestigious awards such as three Academy Awards, a couple of European Film Awards, and the Grand Prix at the festival in Cannes. Interestingly, the version in Italian with English subtitles proved more popular than the version dubbed into English.
In this Pedro Almodóvar movie from 2006, Penélope Cruz stars alongside Carmen Maura, Blanca Portillo, and Yohana Cobo, among others. It tells of a group of women in La Mancha who struggle to keep their family together amid issues such as domestic abuse, death, and ghosts, all carried out in a captivating magic realism style.
After winning two awards at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, the movie made history when Cruz became the first Spanish woman to be nominated for the Best Actress Acadamy. Volver translates as “to go back” and one of the movie’s highlights is when Cruz’s character sings the famous song of the same name. The song was originally a tango classic sung by Carlos Gardel, and the version in the film is performed by Estrella Morente.
Amors Baller (Norway)
This 2011 movie is a comedy directed by Kristoffer Metcalfe, with the title translating as Cupid’s Ball. It follows the fortunes of a teenager who moves from Sweden to Norway and falls in love with the girl who plays as the goalkeeper of the local female soccer team. He tries to win her over by playing for the local male team in the Norway Cup. The movie was partially financed by the Norwegian Film Institute and featured numerous actors with little experience.
It is an interesting glimpse at the popularity of soccer in Norway, as well as a classic coming-of-age romance. We can see more about this country’s love of the sport with this blog that covers soccer matters such as stadium redevelopments and upcoming tournaments. There is a strong focus on the EPL, but movies like this should help to raise interest in the Norwegian Eliteserien league. Some fans may even consider the betting markets to get further involved with the community.
O Thiasos (Greece)
We need to go back to 1975 for the release of this movie from Greece. Directed by Theo Angelopoulos, it runs for close to four hours and shows the viewer how itinerant actors travel the country looking for any sort of work. Set during and just after the Second World War but including elements of mythology, The Travelling Players is widely regarded as one of the best Greek movies of all time.
These films offer us a way of seeing different themes and ways of viewing everyday life that we don’t always come across in English-language movies, making them a strong starting point for understanding a new culture.