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The 15 Best European Films of 2015

21 January 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Aleksandra Stepniewicz

best european films 2015

2015 has been a really fruitful year for European Cinema. The following list, as a short overview of the best European films released in 2015, presents movies from 15 different countries from Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Romania, Hungary through Poland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Ireland and France to Norway and Iceland.

 

1. The Lobster (Greece) – Yorgos Lanthimos

lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the greatest creators in new European cinema. What he creates is not only an absorbing story but a disturbing and bizarre reality. As the English-language debut of the Greek director, The Lobster is a story about love, solitude and cruelty. It is a great gloomy romance and social satire with a dash of dark humor.

In the opening sequence of the film we can see a donkey being shot by a woman. The setting is the near future where single people are marginalized and sent to the special Hotel. The main character David (Colin Farrell) is a guy who has been recently divorced. He is moving to the Hotel with his dog, which is actually his brother who has been transformed into dog for not being able to complete a 45-day programme of the Hotel.

To avoid turning into an animal, any Hotel resident has to find a matching partner among other residents. One of the main tasks in the Hotel is hunting for the Loners – rebels staying single in the woods. One day David decides to escape from the Hotel and join the Loners. There, he meets a girl and falls in love…

 

2. Youth (Italy) – Paolo Sorrentino

Youth

Youth ( Italian title: La giovinezza) is the second English – language film from critically acclaimed Italian director Paolo Sorrentino. It is the winner of the European Cinema Award for the Best Picture and was a nominee for for Golden Globe.

The story takes place in a holiday resort in Suisse Alps, where a retired British orchestra conductor Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) spends his summer vacation for 25 consecutive years. The old man is accompanied by his lifelong friend, filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Kitel) who is finalising his self-acclaimed greatest piece of his career and daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) who is suddenly left by her husband – Boyle’s son.

This simple story about senility and youth is packed with references to pop – culture and celebrities – there is a pop – star Paloma Faith performing herself, an overweight Diego Maradona, Miss Universe and Queen Elisabeth II. The most noteworthy aspect of the Youth, like always in Sorentino’s case, is the visual effect of the movie – the breathtaking locations, beautiful interiors and sublime color grading.

It’s a visually stunning melancholy and a truly elegant fun that definitely can delight every cinema fan.

 

3. Son of Saul (Hungary) – Laszlo Nemes

Son of Saul

Son of Saul ( Hungarian title: Saul fia) is an outstanding, remarkable debut feature by 38-year-old Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes. It’s an emotionally intense story about the unfathomable pain of the survivors of the horrific Holocaust.

The film is set in Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camp in 1944. Eponymous Saul (Géza Röhrig) is a Hungarian Jew, one of many prisoners there.

He is a member of Sanderkommandos – men forced into carrying bodies from gas chambers to pyres to be burned and getting rid of the ashes. In exchange for his duty he receives slightly better food and a delay in his own execution.

This time among the dead, he finds the body of his murdered son. Saul is putting his life in risk to find the rabbi to give a proper, hidden burial to his beloved child. The story of Holocaust here becomes more personal and intimate than ever before, focusing on parenthood, pain and honor in this exceptionally difficult time.

Nemes’s drama was premiered at the 68th Cannes Festival where it won the Grand Prix. It was also the first Hungarian movie to win the Golden Globe award for The Best Foreign Language Film.

 

4. Victoria (Germany) – Sebastian Schipper

Victoria

One city. One night. One set. Victoria is a great victory of German cinema. The viewer is taken here on a unique “sight-seeing” tour inside the picture palace. This two-and-a-half-hour movie is a specific voyage through Berlin.

The movie has been shot in a single, effective take placed all over Berlin. The technical aspects of the film are really impressive and breathtaking. But the biggest advantage of this film is lead performances from Laia Costa and Frederick Lau starring as Victoria and Sonne.

The film begins in techno club, where we can see Victoria dancing in neon lights. After leaving the place she meets a group of Berliners, offering her to join their night – out. One of them – Sonne strikes up an innocent flirtation. Than unexpectedly the movie turns into a disturbing crime drama with bank robbery and tragic finale.

 

5. Mustang (Turkey) – Denis Gamze Erguven

Mustang

New Turkish cinema definitely belongs to Nuri Bilge Celyan, director of awarded Distant (2002), Three Monkeys (2008), Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) and Winter Sleep (2014). Those more demanding cinema lovers may also know a few productions of Semih Kaplanoglu or Zeki Demirkubuz. But the truth is that turkish cinema industry has much more to offer at the moment. A great example is Mustang – the directorial debut of female author Denis Gamze Erguven.

This movie is not only a piece of good cinema but also or primarily a mirror of patriarchal society. It tells the story of five, orphaned sisters raised by their grandmother, aunt and uncle in Turkish seaside village.

In the opening sequence we can see some girls playing innocently with some boys at the beach. Quickly we find out that such ordinary activity is unacceptable in the society they belong to.

From then on, they are kept from leaving the house. Any clothing other than neuter, knee- high, dark dresses are prohibited when other people are around. They cannot use computer or phone anymore. The only thing girls need to focus on is to be suitable for arranged marriage.

The arrangements are made very quickly and sisters starts marrying off, one by one. The situation leads to multiple tragic events…

In 2015 Mustang won the European Film Award for European Discovery of the Year.

 

6. Love (France) – Gaspar Noe

amour

Love is a drama written and directed by controversial French – Argentinian film maker Gaspar Noe – the author of well-known pictures such as Irreversible (2002) and Enter The Void (2009).

The film tells a story of Murphy – a young American photographer living in Paris and his affectionate romance with a girl called Electra. One day they decide to seek excitement by inviting their next door neighbour to bed. None of them is aware that it’s going to change their lives forever.

The film is built on restrospections of Murphy’s vivid erotic memories of his love story with Electra ,filled with long, slow scenes of real, non-staged sexual contacts accompanied by atmospheric rock soundtrack providing a provocative and strong imagery.

Vivid colours of the production design and soft intimate lighting with interesting closeup cinematography and 3-D make the viewer feel like experiencing the ecstasy along with the movie characters. As never seen in cinema before, Gaspar Noe produces an art-pornography image, spiced up with emotional mixture of love, hate, failed expectations, betrayal, guilt and regret, which evoke an empathy among all modern humans.

 

7. Rams (Iceland) – Grimur Hakonarson

RAMS

The comedy drama Rams (orginal title: Hrútar) is a third feature movie of Icelandic film director and screen writer Grímur Hákonarson. The narrative of the movie seems to be slightly prosaic. It tells a story of two brothers living together in the Nothern, cold wilderness with raw and rural landscape.

Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Júlíusson) are both sheep farmers. Despite being brothers they never talk to each other. The only comunication they make is by letters delivered from time to time by Kiddi’s sheepdog. At this year’s region most important event – the ram competition – a ram owned by Kiddi is announced the top prize winner overtaking the one owned by his brother by half a point. The incident is about to deepen aversion between the brothers but then all the farmers run into trouble when their sheeps are getting fatally sick…

Rams is a movie full of Icelandic spirit, dark humour, and deep – winter melancholy. The film premiered at Cannes won a Un Certain Regard Prize, was also shown at Vancouver, Toronto and Telluride festivals. It was also Iceland’s entry into the Oscars.

 

 

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  • Rafael Castilho Monteiro

    LOVE? really? not even as a porn this movie delivers, cmon. i like gaspar noé but LOVE is awful, they assemble a horrible cast, since it was more important to show boobs, vaginas and cocks than good acting. and the story is pedestrian, theres no ‘love’ in that clusterfuck of relationship.

    • Brandon Thompson

      Some people liked it

      • Rafael Castilho Monteiro

        i know why if you know what i mean.

        (boobs.)

        • Samuel Ombiri

          Yo what Gaspar Noé movie would you recommend? i gotta say when i saw enter the void and i was pretty unimpressed with how it was written; the flashback scenes as them being children was so without nuance(i mean it wasn’t without it’s moments of brilliance) but the scenes with the children were so cliche, and when Linda spoke her first words of dialogue after Oscar asked a pretty fun cool question about seeing tokyo from up on the plane she gave an answer that just made go all like ohhhh nooooooo and cringe so much. I thought the characters were cool but.. i dunno, I kind of don’t feel a huge flair for checking out Gaspar’s others stuff, but i like him, he seems like a cool dude.

      • I loved it it. Rafael just has sand in his vagina. For me, it was a very realistic yet raw portrait of love in all of its fallacies.

  • filipecoutinho

    I’d offer these titles for consideration:

    Arabian Nights, by Miguel Gomes
    Dheepan, by Jacques Audiard
    My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Ref, by Liv Corfixen
    ’71, by Yann Demange
    Dior and I, by Frédéric Tcheng

  • Sophiaso

    Son of Saul was also nominated for 2016 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film

  • Andreas Kurz

    what about labyrinth of lies?

  • Miroslav Maric

    nice to see Croatian movie here 🙂

  • Monde

    I almost agree with this list. However…Love? Ce film est pathétique!

  • Monde

    How about…
    Mia Madre (Italy)
    Phoenix (Germany)
    The Brand New Testament (Belgium)
    The Fencer (Finland)
    A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden)
    Dheepan (France)
    Marshland (Spain)
    The Duke of Burgundy (UK)
    Arabian Nights, Volume 1-3 (Portugal)
    The Summer of Sangailė (Lithuania)

    • The Duke of Burgundy and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch… are both from 2014

  • Pingback: 15 Phim Châu Âu Hay Nhất 2015 (Phần 1) - 35mm()

  • Akshay Bhanot

    where to watch them

  • Elvin Bagirov

    If im not wrong, Mustang is officially a french film

  • Mark Jeffery

    I’ve watched Ma Ma, Youth, Love, The Lobster, 45 Years, Room, Son of Saul Victoria and Rams from the list and the only really decent ones have been Rams, Victoria and The Lobster with Room being good. Love is an awful film in my opinion and Son of Saul is so implausible it lessens the impact (He’d neve move between the different areas of the camp like that) The others are middling to meh efforts. Truman, Louder than Bombs, A War, The Here After, The Measure of a Man, Eisenstein in Guanajuato, Suburra, Chevalier and Men & Chicken are more worthy of inclusion than Youth, 45 Years and the others I’ve mentioned.

  • Fredrik Johansen

    Men & Chicken

  • Alice Olivia

    The lobster was amazing!