5. Aki Kaurismäki
Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki has created one of the most unique and consisting filmographies along with a style that involves its own rules and its own kind of characters. Within this world of his own, Kaurismäki created several adaptations from classical literary novels and also stories of his own.
The first film he directed was an adaptation of “Crime and Punishment” in 1983, and then he made an adaptation of “Hamlet” called “Hamlet Goes Business” in 1987. Kaurismäki has remained active and he released his latest film in 2017, called “The Other Side of Hope,” which he has said to be the last film of his career.
Through his long career, Kaurismäki has directed more than 30 films (between short films, feature films, and documentaries). He has given his adaptations a unique treatment, displaying plots with contemporary problems that reflect the several crises of modern life.
He is an educated director who knows and understands the history of cinema, and he is known admirer of classic directors such as Robert Bresson and Yasujirō Ozu. The influence of these two formalist directors can be seen in the profound and minimalistic style with which Kaurismäki tells his stories and portrays his characters.
4. David Lynch
The first film released by David Lynch was “Eraserhead” in 1977, and his thematic and stylistic traits, such as ambiguity and grotesque imagery, could already be seen. The education that Lynch received can explain the avant-garde approach he has taken toward cinema. He got a degree not at a film school but an art school; he just picked cinema as his mean of expression. Before taking the path of filmmaking, he made several experiments involving painting and animations, but it was in film where he was able to create the mesmerizing experiences that gained him the international status he has.
There have been many attempts to understand the works of Lynch; he’s made many acclaimed feature films such as “Blue Velvet” released in 1986, “Lost Highway” in 1977, and “Mulholland Drive” in 2001. He has also explored the TV narrative with his successful series “Twin Peaks.”
In these works, the power of ambiguity and his ability to create experiences that transcend language and explore the darkest side of humanity can be seen. Lynch is in such control of film form that he even made a film that appears to go against all of his previous work, “A Straight Story,” a film that was also praised internationally.
3. Koreeda Hirokazu
Just like legendary Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu was able to display the beauty and tragedy of the Japanese ordinary day-to-day life, Koreeda Hirokazu has created with his films powerful experiences that display profoundly human characters.
The films of Hirokazu display human interactions with their movements of conflict and understanding with a technique that does not overuse any of film’s expressive elements. He creates experiences that silently rise against modern alienation, providing stories that show human beings looking at each other.
Hirokazu started as an assistant director and later started directing documentaries before making the leap to fiction; perhaps it was his documentary background that allowed him to approach human reality with such a degree of sensitivity.
He was recognized for his first feature film in 1995 at the Venice Film Festival and since then his films have been recognized and praised around the world, always displaying his humanistic approach toward film. His latest recognition was in Cannes 2018, where he won the Palme d’Or with his latest film “Shoplifters.”
2. Andréi Zviáguintsev
Andréi Zviánguintsev is the most internationally recognized and awarded Russian filmmaker of his generation. His style has often been compared to the legendary Andrei Tarkovsky by the oneiric atmosphere and the rhythm of his films.
He released “The Return” in 2003, his first feature film for which he immediately drew attention to himself in the most important film festivals around the world; the film even won the Golden Lion in the Venice Film Festival. He received formal education as an actor, which can be seen in the powerful and precise direction of his films.
The films of Zviáguintsev are powerful explorations of human relationships in society; they are full of references that display the critical and informed approach that he has toward film and society. Even though the rhythm of his film is often discussed, especially in his first films, the power of his imagery is always acknowledged. Zvánguintsev is recognized as one of the working directors with a clearer style and original viewpoint to the art of film.
1. Michael Haneke
Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke started his career in 1989 with the release “Der siebente Kontinent,” and since then he has released 14 films consisting of the most critically acclaimed careers of his generation.
Haneke has worked with several of the most recognized personalities of the contemporary filmmaking world, establishing himself as one of the most precise directors working today. Haneke has made films that have become “instant classics,” such as “The Piano Teacher” in 2001, an exploration of sexuality and human relationships for which he won the Jury Prize in the Cannes Films Festival. Or “The White Ribbon,” a powerful portrait of a rural community in Germany and the violent crimes inside it, for which he won the Palme d’Or in 2009.
Haneke’s films display an extremely critical viewpoint toward reality as well as a conscious approach to film language. He is not afraid of displaying the most rotten and violent aspects of the human condition. Haneke takes a look at the void that is violence in human relationships and makes us experience it.
As a contemporary filmmaker, Haneke is aware of the classic conventions of film narrative and he uses them in his favor to manipulate his audience and create mesmerizing and shocking experiences.