Written by: John Michael McDonagh
Released in: 2014
Casting a critical eye at the reputation assigned to anyone associated with the Catholic Church after the institution's years of abuse scandals, John Michael McDonagh casts Brendan Gleeson as a priest battling to keep his unruly town in order despite it’s growing resentment towards him. While Calvary retains the small Irish village setting of McDonagh’s comedic debut, The Guard, that film’s irreverent script is here placed into the hands of the townsfolk and becomes directed at Gleeson’s Father James, with the previously humorous lines now full of vitriol and bite. Like any tragic figure worth his suffering, the Father constantly strives to do the right thing, even in a time when the people around him fail to see any need for his teachings.
Come and See
Written by: Elem Klimov, Ales Adamovich
Released in: 1985
With a grin splayed across his face and a weathered rifle in his arms, the young Belarusian boy Flyora eagerly joins the ranks of the Soviet Partisan forces in this Russian film created as a commemoration for the 40th anniversary of the country’s victory in World War II. Writing with Ales Adamovich, whose teenage experiences the film is based on, Elem Klimov brushes past the massive battles at the front line in favor of depicting the backstage horrors of the war: roving bands of Nazis demolishing hundreds of small towns in Belarus, churches burning with corralled villagers inside, and bands of survivors sneaking through German lines in hopes of recovering any food. The roundabout ending of the film lets us know that what’s been shown is only a sliver of the atrocities the Germans left behind in those villages.
Written by: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
Released in: 2012
A lie universally perceived as a truth is a powerful influence. In The Hunt, the misconstrued comments of a young girl at her kindergarten turn a close-knit Danish town against one of their own, leaving him out of control of his own life. Prior to the accusations, Mads Mikkelsen’s Lucas seems to have things going his way as his estranged wife finally allows their son to live with him and he finds a new girlfriend in one of his coworkers at the kindergarten. Once he’s labelled as a sexual predator, however, his friendships are destroyed, his son is shunned by the community, and he can’t go to the grocery store without the fear of being attacked. Even holding a trial where he’s proven innocent does nothing to lessen the hysteria against him, as his life previous to the incident has become shrouded by an accepted pretense.
Written by: Sadayuki Murai
Released in: 1997
The diffusion of reality and dreams is a common theme throughout Satoshi Kon’s fantastic filmography, and Perfect Blue presents his take on the human psyche at it’s most paranoid. When a young Japanese pop idol’s decision to become an actress creates tension among her fans, a stalker obsessed with her old persona leaves her questioning which version of herself is real. Moments of Mima Kirigoe mistaking her apartment for a production set or having her side-long reflection turn to face her force her to wonder if she’s really uninvolved with the murders that have begun surrounding her show. After the filming of a rape scene thrusts her further into paranoia, Kon’s matched cuts and looping sequences present a shared psychosis to the viewer: will this day turn out to be real, or are we still lost in Mima’s mind?
Inside Llewyn Davis
Written by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Released in: 2013
While decidedly less visually intense than the other films on this list, the Coen Brothers’ story of a despondent folk singer whose partner’s suicide leaves him alone in their act doesn’t shy away from expressing the pitiful depths of human existence. As a folk artist himself, Oscar Isaac portrays the turbulent Llewyn Davis perfectly: a man gifted with the talent to express his sorrows, but unable to stop them. With 1960’s Greenwich Village moving through the folk revival behind him, Llewyn travels from studio to studio looking for the music deal that’ll help him with his monetary troubles while his personal life continues to flounder. By the time he returns to the coach he began his journey on, it’s clear that Llewyn is stuck in the catch-22 presented by his profession: if everything worked out for him, he wouldn’t have anything to sing about.