Rams

IMG_2394This week’s recommendation in conjunction with the Ardhowen is the Icelandic drama, ‘Rams’.

Two estranged elderly brothers living on neighbouring farms have not spoken for 40 years but each is dedicated to the husbandry of their prized ancestral sheep. When a lethal infectious disease means all sheep in the area are to be culled, both men fight this in their own, often inventive, fashion and they are forced together in an attempt to save the special family breed from extinction.

This is indeed a bleak tale but it is lightened by elements of humour and the wonderful landscape, resulting in a film that has gained much acclaim and is ultimately rewarding and fulfilling.

The Shining

IMG_2395So, how about a cult horror classic?! ‘The Shining’, directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick, is based on, but deviates from the novel, of the same name, by Stephen King.

It is a chilling journey into madness exemplified by a remarkable performance by Jack Nicholson. Unhurried in pace and featuring extended dialogue scenes, Kubrick sets the scene and we are trapped in his terrible, malevolent nightmare.

An absolute belter!

 

3:10 to Yuma

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‘3:10 to Yuma’ is the 2007 remake of a Glenn Ford western made 50 years previously. Christian Bale plays an impoverished small-town rancher who volunteers as escort for the outlaw leader, played by Russell Crowe, to ensure he catches the train to face trial in Yuma, knowing the rest of the gang are intent on preventing this.

So far, so predictable and the film does contain all the elements of a traditional western, but while there is more than a nod to High Noon, the standard of acting, character interplay and intelligent direction raise this to a very different level. The comparison and contrast of morality and personality between the two central characters make this something that can be enjoyed even by an audience with no interest in the genre. The marvellous cinematography and the quality of story, by Elmore Leonard, ensure first-class entertainment.

Two Days, One Night

IMG_2397The emotionally tense and stirring social drama, ‘Two Days, One NIght’, was released in 2014, and stars the fabulous Marion Cotillard.

Cotillard puts in a remarkable performance as Sandra Bya, a working mother fighting to save her minimum wage job. Indeed the writers-cum-directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne created the character especially for Ms Cotillard.

Sandra has just returned to her job in a small factory after taking sick leave following a nervous breakdown. In her absence, management found her job could be covered by the other workers and, in a cruel and perverse gesture, have left her 16 colleagues to decide her fate. Sandra can get her job back OR they can work longer hours and each receive a €1,000 bonus. Sandra discovers the scheme just two days before the vote, hence the title. This is how long she has to persuade her workmates to forgo the much needed bonus and vote for her. There is humour and heartbreak, emotional highs and lows, with the tight timeframe and constant threat of relapse into breakdown, generating a low-key suspense. Set in Belgium, it is filmed in French with English subtitles.

Our tip is to have a box of tissues at the ready. Just saying!

Leviathan

IMG_2391The next film recommendation as part of Ardhowen Theatre’s ‘Intermission’ programme is ‘Leviathan’.

‘Leviathan’, was the Golden Globe foreign language winner for 2014. Set on the northwest Russian coast, it is a powerful tale of the little man fighting Town Hall, as the central character tries to hold on to his ramshackle repair garage, while the local mayor attempts to seize the site.

Not always an easy watch, the stunning landscape photography and episodic dark humour provide balance for the frustrating, almost Kafkaesque navigation through the corrupt legal system. The story gives a worthwhile insight into the harsh reality of life and local politics in Russia and concludes in a way that underlines the contradictions in that enigmatic country.