My EQView feature this week was a review of the BFI London Film Festival, featuring my top two films - Land of Mine and Suffragette.
My EQView review of the BFI London Film Festival is here:
Cut and pasted from the EQView website:
BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2015 - REVIEW
As someone who loves films truly, madly, deeply, the BFI London Film Festival is one of the highlights of my year and I have been attending for a number of years.
The London Film Festival is a film festival designed for, and aimed at, the general public. It gives audiences a chance to see films that would not otherwise appear in British cinemas or get a UK release. As a lover of film, what I value about the London Film Festival is that it gives me the opportunity to see a wide range of films I would not normally get the chance to see. This includes smaller independent UK and US films, European and World cinema, documentary features, and classics.
The full list of films I saw at the London Film Festival is as follows: Suffragette, Trumbo, Land of Mine, Departure, The Invitation, Bone Tomahawk, Room, Flocking, Gold Coast, The Witch, Chemsex, The Hard Stop, King Jack, and The End of the Tour.
I saw 14 films in total at the London Film Festival this year and I am highlighting my top two films because they both stood out from the crowd for me – one is a small scale foreign language film which may have a limited release, and the other is an English language star-studded blockbuster currently screening across the UK.
LAND OF MINE
What I can genuinely say about this film, hand on heart, is that it is one of the most impressive films I have seen in a long time.
Land of Mine is set just after the Second World War, and we follow a small group of very young German prisoners of war (POWs) as they are given the deadly task of clearing thousands of landmines off the Danish coast. They have to complete this task before they will be freed and allowed to return to their homeland, Germany. This is a very difficult film to watch but I was drawn into the story right from the start.
The German POWs are trained in defusing and clearing landmines and then they are set to work. You get to know the German POWs as individuals, and the films lets you into their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future. Whilst doing the work, some of them focus on what their lives will be like when they return home to Germany, whereas the more realistic amongst them realize they may never leave Denmark alive. But, as they work together as a unit, the bonds between them grow, and they start to look out for eachother and care about eachother.
A solitary Danish Officer supervises the German POWs and we follow his personal journey too. At the start of the film, directly after the War, he is filled with hate for all Germans, but as he spends more time with his young charges, he gets to know them as individuals, develops a special bond with one in particular, and starts to feel responsible for them and protective towards them.
The film is very effective at conveying the heightened tension and the real sense of fear and foreboding the German POWs must have felt as they did their work. As an audience member, you are on tenterhooks the whole time, and you rarely drop your guard.
Time goes on, the days are long, the work is intense and difficult, and appears never-ending. Clearing landmines is dangerous work, and it is inevitable the work will take its toll. These are the hardest scenes to watch, especially as the German POWs are so young, most of them only in their late teens.
This is less a War film, and more a film about human beings, relationships, and the close bonds formed in extreme situations. We witness the tough Danish officer softening over time, and the German POWs bonding as a team. The film also has some reprieve at the end because, against all the odds, a few of the German POWs survive the experience and return back home.
Land of Mine affected me deeply and I cannot recommend it highly enough – it is truly exceptional. Powerful, moving, beautiful, heart-breaking and uplifting. Go see!
Suffragette traces the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement as they fight for their right to vote. The film took me by surprise because it was much better and far stronger than I had expected.
Carey Mulligan plays Maud, an ordinary working class woman, who has been working at the local laundry ever since she was a small girl. Having an everywoman as the lead character, right at the heart of the story, worked very well and made for a very strong film.
We follow Maud’s journey and her path towards becoming a fully-fledged Suffragette. Maud’s story is integrated with the more famous Suffragettes, people like Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Wilding Davison, because she first encounters, and then works alongside, these famous women as she begins to devote more and more of her time and energy to the cause.
Maud’s story brought home to me the huge personal sacrifices these women made for the cause, often losing their jobs, their homes, their husbands, their children, and, in extreme cases, their lives.
The film highlights the stories of ordinary working women, whose contribution often goes unrecognized, and it was good the film used their stories and showcased their achievements.
I was not taught this history at school, so I was not aware of the violent and radical actions women had taken, the surveillance they were put under, their arrest and imprisonment, or the hunger strikes they staged. This was all new information to me but it should be taught in schools and colleges as an essential part of history.
The film is stuffed to the brim with star actors, including Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw and Meryl Streep, and they all play their parts to perfection and with real heart and passion.
Suffragette portrayed a very important part of Britain’s history in a very powerful and moving way, by highlighting the outstanding contribution of ordinary working women to the fight for women’s right to vote. I was truly humbled to see the huge personal sacrifices these women made in pursuit of their right to vote, a right which today is far too often taken for granted.
I hope my Preview and Review of the London Film Festival has whetted your appetite and, if it has, I will see you there next year!
The BFI London Film Festival is the UK’s largest public film event and ran at venues across London from Wednesday 7 October to Sunday 18 October 2015.
Follow the link for more information on the London Film Festival: