International movies: Destructive Love

In the age of streaming, Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, our movie options are endless. But endless options means endless choices, and we often settle for the obvious.

At your service, Super Heroin Marine (aka Sheikha Mama) spots the best international movies to broaden your horizons! Enjoy the sample, stay connected, and send your favorites.

This month is that of the powerful topic of destructive love, one that can be found in most movies one way or the other. My pick focused on what I felt were some of the most sensitive, subtle, honest, heartfelt movies I've watched on the topic. Many of them happen to be Asian, probably due to the stillness of their directors, who prefer the depth of silence to the intensity of dialogues.

Through different stories, times and contexts, I invite you to dive into the love matter and question how falling into it, avoiding it, refusing it, confronting it, can be a blessing as well as the greatest tragedy of the human kind. 


 Grace and poetry depict the coming of age and self-destruction love leads to.

Grace and poetry depict the coming of age and self-destruction love leads to.

After a romantic relationship with a married film director, young actress Younghee (Min-Hee Kim) moves to Germany and back to her home country South Korea. Victim of social lynching and tourmented by the relationship, Younghee wonders around life, seeking peace of mind.

As an audience, we embark on a tremendously poetic journey. Although slow, airy and extremelly reliant on the extraordinary music (I finally found the theme song: listen to Schubert Quintet in C here from 21:30 until 25:00), this movie remarkably depicted the sadness, freedom and rebeliousness of true heartaches in a way I had never seen before. It echoed to my own experiences and I am grateful to have watched such a poetic tribute to the womanly coming of age. When I left the movie theater, I was a little skeptical. And yet I find myself going back to it very often and I am now eagerly waiting to buy it and let my dreams sink into it.

Moreover, the director Hong Sang-Soo engages in beautiful esthetics, interesting cinematography, great reflections and a deep sense of characters and relationships. Min-Hee Kim’s remarkable intepretation is free from any clichee and it was such a breath of fresh air to see for once how a tortured soul can also be as calm and gentle as the ocean.

Reasons to watch:

  • Immense poetry and musicality
  • A unique description of human tourments
  • Great artistic work from the director and all actors

Reasons to dread:

  • if you're in for answers, look away: this art only lets you contemplate questions and can be a little slow
  •  Heavy reliance on music and esthetics

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IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE

Love, tension, inhibition and the soul's fight for life.

 

Destruction or death aren't necessarily physical, and one can die from not living its truth. In this sense, Juliet, Marina (from the below-mentioned Japanese adaptation of The Little Mermaid), Satine (Moulin Rouge!) or Katharine (The English Patient) may physically die, they ultimately live their truth through their love. Even Maggie from Million Dollar Baby lived hers. On the opposite end, Chow and Su from In the Mood for Love may be physically alive, they are well dead inside, because of their inability to face, confront, consume.

In the Mood for Love is this long ballad within and outside the hearts of two lonely people whose incapacity to face themselves only equals the intensity of the inner life they fight so hard against. It is the sublimated story of the everyday tragedy of the human kind, and therefore is a must watch.

Reasons to watch:

  • The music
  • The romantic tension
  • Two equally beautiful actors, although in very different ways
  • The magnificent capture of spleen and melancholy

Reasons to dread:

  • This could mirror your very own life
  • It's the contemplative kind

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     Marina

A poetic and authentic restitution of Andersen's tale.

You may know the infamous Ariel story, a classic Disney tale about a charming Mermaid who falls in love with a Prince and ultimately finds happiness - all despite the many obstacles and cruelty she had to fight. But those of you who are familiar with the original Andersen tale know how much Disney has to stretch the original version to be able to give it a happy ending. 

Tomoharu Katsumata and Tim Reid, who codirected the "Marina" version,  went for a much more tragic version which actually respects the initial story. Yes the Mermaid saves the Prince, falls in love and swaps her voice for human legs with the nasty queen,  but what actually happens is that the Prince believes someone else saves her, and till the end goes through with marrying another woman. Thanks to her fellow mermaid sisters sacrifice, Marina is given the opportunity to murder the Prince and go back to Mermaid kingdom, but her love is pure and she ultimately decides to sacrifice her life rather than taking his.

That version is nowhere near as optimistic as Disney's, yet it resonates on such a deeper level and allows children to poetically face the topics of love, selflessness, injustice, and even suicide. Even more tragically, there is no evil character here (although the Sea Witch icy posture is scary enough), everyone is really doing the best they can, and the fatal ending is really just a succession of very unfortunate coincidences and disconnected agendas.   

I read one day that "Disney movies touch the heart, but Studio Ghibli films touch the soul". This is not a Ghibli movie but I believe this sums up very well what many Japanese animated movies do to me. 

Oh and by the way...the full movie is available on Youtube: it's just over an hour and it's here, so there is no excuse not to watch it!

Reasons to watch:

  • For the sake of knowing the real Andersen story
  • For the magic subtle and poetic storytelling
  • Because it's 2D, it's hand-drawn and it's nice to be nostalgic sometimes

Reasons to dread:

  • After watching this, there is very little chance you'll still enjoy the Disney version


HONORABLE MENTIONS

If you like the endless topic of love and destruction, here's an amazing article with very complementary choices. Check it out and nurture your own passion!


Former articles

Marine Georgepassion, love