The Korean comedy thriller film “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon-Ho, made quite an impact and broke many records during awards season this year.
“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” Joon-Ho said in his acceptance speech in January for the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
If “Parasite” opened the door of foreign films for you, then consider these as your next to watch. Like the Academy Award-winning film, these poignant stories and provocative cinematography will leave you reflecting about the state of society and of the human condition long after the credits roll.
‘Force Majeure’ (2014)
You know the drill: Avalanche threatens family eating on a rooftop in the French Alps, dad grabs his phone and runs away, mom is left holding onto the kids as the rooftop is covered in avalanche smoke, family members are left physically intact and emotionally injured. The Swedish comedic drama, “Force Majeure,” directed and written by Ruben Östlund, is filled with subtle questions of societal gender roles, expectations and perceptions of masculinity.
Long, lingering shots force viewers to step into the characters’ shoes and confront these emotional issues head-on, no matter how brutally awkward each scene may be. Östlund’s dark humor nicely contrasts with the heavy emotional toll that the family goes through, being enough to leave you thinking whether your own friends and loved ones would “Force Majeure” you and abandon you when confronted with a clear and present danger.
‘The Handmaiden’ (2016)
Based off the historical novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters, “The Handmaiden,” directed by Park Chan-wook, is an intense South Korean psychological erotic thriller that is split into three chapters, each told through a different perspective, which keeps viewers in suspense and anticipation as the story unfolds.
The complex storyline of betrayals, double-crosses and surprising twists combined with beautifully shot scenes, incredibly composed music and captivating characters all add to the hypnotizing effect the film has. Like in “Parasite,” Chan-wook expertly knows how to insert a tone of fine-drawn discomfort through theatrical elements such as subtle humor and the unveiling of distressing secrets to make viewers uncomfortable. Not many movies leave me feeling stunned at the end, but “Parasite” and “The Handmaiden” are definitely at the top of that list.
In 2018, the Japanese drama “Shoplifters” won the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d’Or. The film, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, takes its time to fully immerse viewers into the impoverished world of a family that shoplifts to stay afloat. The family members are not connected by blood, but by the love they have and give to one another, emphasizing the universal idea mentioned throughout the film that familial bond is stronger when people choose their own family.
“Shoplifters” is a quiet film that chooses to display how strikingly honest, vulnerable and human its characters are, with their most stirring scenes displaying their pure emotional rawness in the climax of the film. If the tense drama in “Parasite” stressed you out, then you might appreciate the slower change of pace with “Shoplifters.”
To end things on a lighter note, “Amelie,” otherwise known as “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain,” is a lighthearted romantic comedy that is an absolute delight to watch. The dreamy atmosphere as well as the vibrant color palette sets the movie in a charming world where the main character Amelie engages in missions to bring others happiness. The story about the beauty of love and the idea of enjoying life gave me a warm, sunshiney feeling that left me in a good mood for the rest of the day.
The film is so wholesome, full of life and fun to watch that it can withstand numerous rewatchings and constant recommendations. “Amelie” is probably the most well-known film compared to the rest of the movies on this list, enjoying popularity from film fans and regular moviegoers alike. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet does a great job of capturing romance in a way that isn’t just about love, but the love of love itself.
The world of film outside of English-speaking movies is excitingly vast. Watching international films can introduce new perspectives and open up understandings for different cultures. Hopefully this list and “Parasite” can help if you want to overcome that 1-inch barrier.