Our favourite MEDIA-supported films of 2019

A good year for European cinema? Our team pick some of their favourites from the MEDIA-funded titles they've seen this year. 

Bergman - A Year In a Life (Bergman - ett år, ett liv) - Jane Magnusson

Sarah Boulter, Culture Co-ordinator, Creative Europe Desk UK - England

Focusing on one year of incredibly prolific output, we see Bergman moving in 1957 to making the highly self-reflective films which we love him for. At certain points this is a hide-behind-your-hands watch for any Bergman superfans. Delving into every uneasy crevice of his character, political sympathies & relationships, via the unreliable truths of his own writings, lovers (at points tearful), original footage and actors who clearly feel emboldened to poke gentle fun at him since he is no longer with us… “I need to have breakfast alone, I’m creating”…..  the film is a fascinating study into the absolute power of one man over the people around him, as well as over the entire film & theatrical world, all seemingly achieved on a diet of his special Swedish yoghurt and biscuits. OR, more concisely, a lesson on great art, the human condition and how not to end up alone longing for “human warmth” from your housekeeper. 

Border (Gräns) - Ali Abbasi 

Agnieszka Moody, Director, Creative Europe Desk UK

My choice comes from the North of Europe and is a romantic film (released in the UK on Valentine’s Day) like no other: Gräns by an Iranian-Danish Director Ali Abbasi. A story of finding love and one’s true identity at the same time. Alissa Simon of Variety described the film as "an exciting, intelligent mix of romance, Nordic noir, social realism, and supernatural horror that defies and subverts genre conventions". I think I was most taken with the exploration of moral values and the notions of the affinity with “us” and the indifference at best and hostility at worst towards “the others”. I read this as an eloquent metaphore of modern, increasingly multicultural Western Europe societies. Oh, and the sex scene is out of this world, quite literally!

The Favourite - Yorgos Lanthimos

Nicole Davis - Promotions Co-ordinator,  Creative Europe Desk UK

Salty, muddy, bloody – Yorgos Lanthimos’ riotous period drama The Favourite is antidote to its sterile predecessors. As technically precise as it is visually inventive and as bonkers as it is brilliant, it tells the story of an 18th century love triangle with the wit and chutzpah of the modern day. What’s more it seats Olivia Colman on the throne she deserves. 

Martin Eden - Pietro Marcello

Alberto Valverde - MEDIA Officer, Creative Europe Desk UK - Scotland

Cinema is the language of dreams. Culture and enlightenment are nothing without compassion. I'm going Italy-bound once again. I like to find textures, poetry and mystery in films. We need pictures that are political in the plot but also in the form, expanding the possibilities of film as an art form. Pietro Marcello's "transformation" of the classic book by Jack London is a brutally free adaptation (it moves the story from Oklahoma to Napoli) yet is incredibly faithful with the spirit of the novel. 

While Marcello's film clearly synthesizes the plot of the novel: the rise of sailor Martin Eden from marginality to enlightening and economic success driven by his love for bourgeois Elena. The central story is hammered by the use of multiple archive films and analogue images of immense beauty elevating the film with poetic outbursts. Broken narratives, found footage, colour-painted film. Marcello creates a film of brilliant realism articulated through artifice and imperfection: multiple textures, different musical currents (from electronics to Debussy) all combined in an unforgettable film.  

Maybe the most important aspect of the film is its outstanding message against capitalism and liberalism, against the commodification of art that causes apathy, disenchantment and weariness in the individual (and leads to more individualism). "Contracts are the only literature that loves capitalism." says Eden at some point.

How to be solidary in a world dominated by personal interests, thirst for success and wealth? Although maybe the most important and disturbing question that the film puts in our face is: What is the point of knowledge, culture and art when we allow our world to ignore solidarity, compassion and love?

Monos - Alejandro Landes

Francesca Walker - MEDIA Manager, Creative Europe Desk UK - England

My first watch at this year's London Film Festival, and what a watch! I was fully immersed from the start (who needs VR!), soaring above the mountains and being swept along through jungle rapids, with Mica Levi's "monumental, but minimal" score and Lena Esquenazi's sound design working seamlessly together to put the 'thrill' into this extraordinary thriller. 

Pain and Glory (Dolor Y Gloria) – Pedro Almódovar

Megan James - Marketing and Communications Manager, Creative Europe Desk UK

Pain, pleasure and memories collide in Pedro Almodóvar and Antonio Banderas’ 8th film together. Already a follower of Almodóvar’s career, I didn’t expect to be hit so hard by what’s arguably his most restrained and low-key film. More a semi-autobiographical meditation on the grip that illness had over time on his creativity and relationships than a garish melodrama, quietly tender moments of loss flow into flashes of self-deprecating humour and nods to the sometimes fickle world of film (featuring a fabulously cringeworthy filmmaker Q&A!)

The Spanish duo’s cinematic partnership has spanned around 4 decades and survived a gap of nearly 20 years, inspiration for this thinly-veiled autobiography and tender tale. In a role swap Banderas is mesmerising as ageing filmmaker Salvador, suffering chronic pain and illness that leaves him unable to do what he loves most. ‘I was more Pedro than Pedro’ he explains, in a role of a lifetime that’s already garnered him a Cannes Best Actor award, Golden Globe nomination and looks set for an Oscar nod too. A fascinating complement to his recent portrayal of another ‘suffering artist’ Picasso.

A rencounter with one of his past stars and muses (loosely based on Banderas), and also a newly formed heroin habit, sets in motion a mosaic of dreamlike flashbacks of his childhood and mother played by Penelope Cruz, his lost love Federico and buried guilt. In the present however Salvador is trapped and haunted in his glamourous but now claustrophobic Madrid apartment, perhaps not so different to the ‘cave’ he lived in as a child in poverty in rural Paterna. Hurt and hope exist side by side in Pain and Glory, a dive into the auteur’s creative career (however much of it is really true) and I hope this marks the beginning of another Almodóvar x Banderas era of collaboration!