The convenience of watching a movie in your own language and understanding everything without losing any of its details is something quite comfortable and easy. However, there are many very good movies that are worth watching despite being in a language other than English. These are some movies that I recommend in foreign languages.
The first film I recommend is this Argentine production from 2014 whose plot is divided into six autoconclusive short stories united by their theme that explore the confines of human behavior. In the words of its director, Damián Szifron, the thematic connection of the stories refers to “the blurred border that separates civilization from barbarism, the vertigo of losing one’s temper and the undeniable pleasure of losing control”. Wild and raw, the film keeps the viewer in constant tension with each story it tells.
This Canadian and French film recounts a mother’s dying wishes that send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to the Middle East in search of their tangled roots. Incendies tells a moving story about the journey of these two brothers to the heart of their origins with a background of war and impoverishment.
This Spanish film, awarded dozens of awards, is one of the most successful on the Spanish film scene. It tells how in the Falangist Spain of 1944, a young story lover and stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer, flees to a mysterious but captivating fantasy world to escape and hide from the harsh reality she is living. Fantasy and reality are mixed to tell the Spanish Civil War from the perspective of a 13-year-old girl.
This Italian classic tells the moving story of a film director who remembers how in his childhood he fell in love with the cinema of his town and struck up a deep friendship with the projectionist. The film takes us through the memories of Salvatore, the protagonist, about his childhood in his hometown, which he has not visited for 30 years but to which he will have to return due to the death of his dear friend Alfredo, the projectionist of the cinema of his town that discovered his passion for cinema.
City of God may be the most famous Brazilian movie ever. In it, two children who grow up in a marginal and dangerous neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro adopt different professional paths; while one of them becomes a photographer, the other boy finds his purpose in life in drug dealing. The film adapted the story from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins, but the plot is loosely based on true events. It depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the late 1960s and early 1980s.
Another Spanish film worth seeing is Los Santos Inocentes. Based on the homonymous book by the famous writer Miguel Delibes, it tells the story of a family of Spanish peasants who live subordinated to the social class that owns the land, dominates the resources and rules over them. Their life consists of giving up and obeying. Their destiny is marked and only something violent, outside of the everyday, will break his sentence.
This 1995 French film follows the lives of young Parisians living in the suburbs of the city. When a young Arab is arrested and beaten unconscious by police, a riot erupts in the notoriously violent suburbs outside of Paris. Three of the victim’s friends, Vinz, Said and Hubert, wander aimlessly about their home turf after the violent events as they try to come to grips with their outrage over the brutal incident. After one of the friends finds a police officer’s discarded gun, they decide they will kill a police officer if their friend dies. The film is a vivid portrait of social inequalities and police brutality in the Parisian suburbs of the time.
Christiane F. is a 1981 German biographical drama film that portrays the descent of Christiane Felscherinow, a bored 13 year old girl who grew up in mid-1970s West Berlin, into a 14 year old heroin addict. Everything in her life slowly begun to distort and disappear as she befriended a small group of addicts and fell in love with a drug-addled male prostitute. Based on the 1978 non-fiction book Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (We Children of the Zoo Station), the film immediately gained cult status.
One of the best-known films by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar could not be missing in this list. With Penélope Cruz as the protagonist, Volver tells the story of Sole, a young woman, who visits her ancestral village to attend the funeral of Paula, her aunt. However, much to her horror, she encounters the ghost of her mother who died years ago.
The last recommendation on this list is a well-known Japanese animated psychological thriller. Perfect Blue, from director Satoshi Kon, follows the troubling life of a former pop singer turned actress who is haunted by an obsessed fan and a ghost from her past. As she becomes a victim of stalking, gruesome murders begin to occur, and she starts to lose her grip on reality.
Dubbing and subtitles were invented so movies could reach more people around the world. They are one more tool used to discover new stories and new cultures. Quoting 2020 Best Picture Oscar-winning Korean director Bong Joon-Ho: “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”