August 17, 2017

Oscars 2017: what’s up for best foreign language film?

comcOn Oscar night the winner of the award for Best Foreign Language film probably won’t get much publicity – it seldom does.
Yet compared to only a few years ago the category is no longer a byword among Oscar voters for baffling obscurity.
And this year one of the films shortlisted is already lined up for a Hollywood remake.
Here’s a look at this year’s nominees:
Story: Immediately after World War Two on Denmark’s west coast, a group of teenage German soldiers are to clear some of the two million landmines which Germany deployed on beaches and along the shoreline to deter an Allied invasion. They are supervised by the Danish Sergeant Rasmussen who at first seems filled with violence.
Will it win? Voted Best Danish Film at last year’s Danish film awards. It’s well acted both by Roland Moller as the sergeant and by the young actors who play the Germans. When early on Rasmussen delivers a savage beating for no clear reason, we guess that the story will see him humanised by his contact with the soldiers he appears to despise. A couple of incidents late in the film seem there only for dramatic convenience and don’t convince. The scenes of defusing mines are impressively tense and hard to watch.
Story: Ove is a cranky old widower living alone. He expends a lot of energy trying to police the behaviour of his neighbours, who treat him warily. Ove’s not pleased when the house opposite is taken by a new family: he finds it hard to accept the warm-hearted Parvaneh (who’s Iranian) and her Swedish husband. Yet a relationship builds and in flashback we encounter the younger Ove, a man more open to life’s possibilities who marries the beautiful Sonja.
Will it win? The film is attractively shot and Rolf Lassgard makes Ove sympathetic as an old man without totally sentimentalising him. Some of the humour is a bit clunky and the process of discovering Ove’s latent nice guy within runs along predictable lines. But in the extensive flashbacks Filip Berg and Ida Engvoll make an attractive and likeable young couple which gives the film an unexpected sweetness.
Story: Emad and Rana are middle-class inhabitants of Tehran: he teaches but their joint passion is acting. After a tip-off from a fellow actor they find a new apartment. It seems a good move until they discover more about the previous occupant who left one room locked. As they work on a production of Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, the couple’s relationship becomes more tense. There is a violent incident and Emad becomes obsessed with revenge.
Will it win? It may be that no film can overtake the German nominee this year. But Farhadi has written a superbly tense and unsettling screenplay whose mastery of dread Alfred Hitchcock would have relished. The couple are superbly played by Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini. Previous winner Farhadi has indicated he will refuse to attend the Oscar ceremony in protest at President Trump trying to restrict Iranians entering the USA: could this create a sympathy vote for him? The most memorable of this year’s films.

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