European Drama Films

“That grand drama in a hundred acts, which is reserved for the next two centuries of Europe—the most terrible, most questionable and perhaps also the most hopeful of all dramas”.

Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nietzsche was right when he said that the grand drama of all times was European. He certainly didn’t meant cinema at that time, but let us use his quote to illustrate this article. European film directors are among the best in the business. Whether it’s Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodovar or Ken Loach who floats your boat, the European team is both prominent and world-acclaimed, with huge numbers of films conceived or created here crossing oceans to reach a huge international audience. And they excel in the art of producing great drama films – prompting us between tragic scenes emotions, passion and reflections. So you better get out your handkerchief – because Europe is calling!

Portugal

Mysteries of Lisbon
Mistérios de Lisboa, dir. Raúl Ruiz
7,5/10 IMDB – Trailer

Mysteries of Lisbon is about the mechanics of storytelling and imagination. It plot is rich with coincidences, plot twists, multiple narrators, disguises, and flashbacks-within-flashbacks. Every major character possesses at least two identities, and the story – which hopscotches around Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries – is set against the Napoleonic Wars and includes pirates, a woman hellbent on avenging the death of her twin brother, and at least four different love triangles.

Spain

Bad education
La mala educación, dir. Pedro Almodóvar
7,5/10 IMDB – Trailer

When an old friend brings filmmaker Enrique Goded a semi-autobiographical script chronicling their adolescence, Enrique is forced to relive his youth spent at a Catholic boarding school. Weaving through past and present, the script follows a transvestite performer who reconnects with a grade school sweetheart. Spurred on by this chance encounter, the character reflects on her childhood sexual victimization and the trauma of closeting her sexual orientation.

France

A prophet 
Un prophète, dir. Jacques Audiard
7,9/10 IMDB – Trailer

Condemned to six years in prison, Malik El Djebena can neither read nor write. Arriving at the jail entirely alone, he appears younger and more fragile than the other convicts. Cornered by the leader of the Corsican gang who rules the prison, he is given a number of missions to carry out, toughening him up and gaining the gang leaders confidence in the process.

Iceland

Noi the Albino
Nói albino, dir . Dagur Kári
7,4/10 IMDB – Trailer

Seventeen-year-old Nói, an albino, lives with his grandmother, Lina, in an isolated town in Iceland. Bright but bored with a life that offers no possibility of change or excitement, Nói amuses himself by antagonizing teachers and administrators at school, which angers his father, Kiddi. His daily routine is brightened by the arrival of Iris, a young gas station attendant Nói dreams of running away with.

Ireland

Breakfast on Pluto
dir. Neil Jordan
7,3/10 IMDB – Trailer

As a baby, Patrick is left by his mother on the steps of the rectory in their small Irish town. He’s discovered by Father Liam, coincidentally his real father, and placed in an abusive foster home. By the time he’s a teen, Patrick identifies himself as transgendered, renames himself Kitten and sets out for London with a rock group in hopes of finding his mother. Along the way he works variously as a magician’s assistant, a prostitute and a dancer.

United Kingdom

Atonement
dir. Joe Wright
7,8/10 IMDB – Trailer

This sweeping English drama, based on the book by Ian McEwan, follows the lives of young lovers Cecilia Tallis  and Robbie Turner. When the couple are torn apart by a lie constructed by Cecilia’s jealous younger sister, Briony, all three of them must deal with the consequences. Robbie is the hardest hit, since Briony’s deception results in his imprisonment, but hope for Cecilia and her beau increases when their paths cross during World War II.

Norway

Elling
dir. Petter Nuss
7,6/10 IMDB – Trailer

Elling, a sensitive, mentally disabled man, must move to a psychiatric institution when his mother, who has taken care of him for 40 years, dies. There, he meets Kjell, and the pair become friends. After two years, Elling and Kjell are allowed to leave the institution and live in an apartment in Oslo, Norway. At first, even the simplest tasks of independent life prove challenging, but soon the roommates begin to blossom in their own unique way.

Sweden

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Män som hatar kvinnor, dir. Niels Arden Oplev
7,8/10 IMDB – Trailer

Disgraced financial reporter Mikael Blomkvist finds a chance to redeem his honor after being hired by wealthy Swedish industrialist Henrik Vanger to solve the 40-year-old murder of Vanger’s niece, Harriet. Vanger believes that Harriet was killed by a member of his own family. Eventually joining Blomkvist on his dangerous quest for the truth is Lisbeth Salander, an unusual but ingenious investigator whose fragile trust is not easily won.

Finland

The Man Without a Past
Mies vailla menneisyyttä, dir. Aki Kaurismäki
7,7/10 IMDB – Trailer

After a brutal beating in a Helsinki park, a middle-aged welder falls into a coma. When he wakes up, he cannot recollect a single detail about his life. Unable to provide information to the authorities, the man has no legal way to regain his life. He finds a community of homeless people, and creates a home out of a metal container. He eventually meets Irma, a Salvation Army worker, and they fall in love while he rebuilds a life with new friends and a new job.

Denmark

Dogville
dir. Lars von Trier
8,1/10 IMDB – Trailer

A barren soundstage is stylishly utilized to create a minimalist small-town setting in which a mysterious woman named Grace hides from the criminals who pursue her. The town is two-faced and offers to harbor Grace as long as she can make it worth their effort, so Grace works hard under the employ of various townspeople to win their favor. Tensions flare, however, and Grace’s status as a helpless outsider provokes vicious contempt and abuse from the citizens of Dogville.

Netherlands

God forsaken
Van God Los, dir. Pieter Kuijpers
7,2/10 IMDB – Trailer

The film is based on the real life of the “Gang from Venlo”, that left a trail of death and destruction in the North-Middle Limburg area from 1993 till 1994. The most notorious incident is known as the “Carnival Murders”. During the ‘farmer’s wedding’, an event at the carnival of 1994, the old couple Sjeng and Ferda van Rijn were murdered in a robbery.

Belgium

L’Enfant
dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
7,5/10 IMDB – Trailer

After giving birth, teenage Sonia returns home to find that her boyfriend, irresponsible petty criminal Bruno, has sublet their apartment. Sonia tracks Bruno down on the street, and after the couple spends the night together, they decide to start a new life with the baby. But the next morning, Bruno sells their child for cash, sending Sonia into shock. Shaken by her decision to press charges against him, Bruno sets out to retrieve the baby.

Germany

The White Ribbon
Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte, dir. Michael Haneke
7,8/10 IMDB – Trailer

Using their social status and harsh punishments, a baron, a doctor and a pastor rule over a small German village. One day, the doctor falls off his horse after it trips over a wire strung between two trees. More pranks follow, seemingly without reason, all directed at the village’s upper class and growing increasingly more brutal with time. There are no suspects, but a local schoolteacher has his suspicions…

Austria

Dog Days
Hundstage, dir. Ulrich Seidl
7,1/10 IMDB – Trailer

A family struggles to survive on dwindling rations as the United States gradually loses its global war. One day a stray man in a dog suit appears on the doorstep and attempts to become the family pet. The film is characterized by a disturbing naturalistic style which is a trademark of Seidl’s directing. It stars a mix of professional and amateur actors and it became mildly controversial for its depiction of unsimulated sex scenes.

Switzerland

The Little Bedroom 
La Petite Chambre, dir. Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond
6,7/10 IMDB – Trailer

When Edmond, a man quickly facing the loss of his independence, is placed in a care facility after taking a bad fall, he discovers that his son has sold his apartment. Determined to reclaim his autonomy, he leaves the care facility with Rose, an empathetic nurse still suffering from the loss of her unborn child. She takes him into her home to allow him the measure of freedom he deserves.

Italy

Wild Blood
Sanguepazzo, dir. Marco Tullio Giordana
6,3/10 IMDB – Trailer

A pair of movie stars rise to fame during World War II through alliances that taint their reputation in this historical drama based on a true story. As Fascism is on the march in Italy under the rule of Benito Mussolini, Golfiero Goffredo is a well-respected film director who is not afraid to share his left-wing views.

Czechia

Zelary
dir. Ondrej Trojan
7,7/10 IMDB – Trailer

A man from a rural mountain area is brought to the hospital with serious injuries and desperately needs a transfusion. Eliska is the only one with the same blood type. Her blood saves his life, and a connection is formed

Slovakia

Return of the Storks
Návrat bocianov, dir Martin Repka
6,7/10 IMDB – Trailer

Return of the Storks follows the turbulent life of Vanda. Bewildered, she breaks up with her boyfriend and goes to Slovakia to find adventure. There she succumbs to the charm of the mysterious Miro. There are two problems: the guy is married and, more importantly, he’s involved in trafficking illegal immigrants from the East into Europe.

Poland

Tricks
Sztuczki, dir. Andrzej Jakimowski
7,1/10 IMDB – Trailer

During the long summer holidays, six-year-old Stefek follows his 17-year-old sister Elka as she works by evening in a bar and prepares for her job interview with a large international company. One day, at the railway station, they see a man who Stefek suspects may be the father who abandoned him at birth.

Lithuania

Loss
Nereikalingi žmonės, dir. Maris Martinsons
7,2/10 IMDB – Trailer

Loss is a story about a Priest in Ireland who meets a woman Valda from his native Lithuania only to find out her mysterious identity is closely connected with a darkest secret of his past. The Lithuanian drama was inspired by Six Degrees of Separation and Dostoevsky’s line “the tears of that one tortured child”. Loss delves into the harsh realities of six people’s lives whose destinies are brought together after a tragic accident that happened over two decades ago.

Latvia

Return of Sergeant Lapins
Seržanta Lapiņa atgriešanās, dir. Gatis Šmits
7,1/10 IMDB – Trailer

After recovering from overseas mission Krists Lapiņš moves into a quiet neighbourhood in Riga. His new, peaceful life soon is disrupted by a mysterious blonde, a wannabe private detective, a bankrupt millionaire and a rigorous cop. A witty portrayal of modern Latvian society. he film’s plot is based on the play Tas notika ar viņiem written by Gatis Šmits and produced in The New Theatre of Riga in 2007.

Estonia

The Temptation Of St. Tony
Püha Tõnu kiusamine, dir. Heiko Õunpuu 
7,2/10 IMDB – Trailer

A seemingly normal man is drawn into a life where nothing makes sense. Tony is an ordinary white-collar office drone whose world is becoming increasingly bizarre. His wife is increasingly angry and disinterested in him, his teenage daughter doesn’t pay attention to him, his father’s funeral turned into a spectacle when a massive auto wreck interrupted the procession, and his employers have become ruthless to the point of incoherence.

Belarus

A Prisoner in the Caucasus 
Kavkazkie plenniki, dir. Yury Khashchavatski
7,5/10 IMDB – Trailer

On patrol in the Caucasus mountains, Russian soldiers Vanya and Sacha become the prisoners of a Chechen village. Tribal leader Abdul-Murat is willing to release the pair unharmed in exchange for his son, who is a prisoner in the custody of the Russians. After writing to their mothers with Abdul-Murat’s terms, the duo are powerless to do anything but wait for an answer while getting used to life in the village.

Ukraine

My Joy
Schastye moe, dir. Sergey Loznitsa 
6,9/10 IMDB – Trailer

The story about a few days in the life of truck driver Georgi seems to be a never-ending nightmare, a spiral of violence and abuses of power. A man goes to work and on his way he is sucked into the everyday madness of his country, losing his health and memory in the process and ends up as a murderer, who calmly lies down to sleep after committing a crime.

Moldova

Bed of Procust
Patul lui Procust, dir. Viorica Mesina and Sergiu Profan
7,4/10 IMDB – Trailer

Ladima commits suicide in the opening sequence. Later his friend, Fred Vasilescu, while spending an afternoon in bed with his voluptuous actress-mistress, Emilia, discovers that Ladima had been in love with her also and wrote her numerous letters. Bed of Procust, possibly the first Moldavian production ever screened at an international festival, is an adaptation of a famous Romanian novel by Camil Petrescu

Romania

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile, dir. Cristian Mungiu
7,9/10 IMDB – Trailer

The film is set in Communist Romania in the final years of the Nicolae Ceauşescu era. It tells the story of two students, roommates in the university dormitory, who try to arrange an illegal abortion. After making its worldwide debut at Cannes, the film made its Romanian debut on 1 June 2007, at the Transilvania International Film Festival.

Hungary

Fateless
Sorstalanság, dir. Lajos Koltai
7,1/10 IMDB – Trailer

Based on the 2002 Nobel prize-winning novel by Imre Kertesz, Fateless chronicles the attempts of 14-year-old Gyuri Koves to reconcile the unimaginable horror of having been incarcerated in German concentration camps. On his return to Budapest Gyuri finds those around him treat him with indifference.

Slovenia

09:06
dir. Igor Stern
5,5/10 IMDB – Trailer

For a police officer to investigate a suspicious death is pretty standard. For him to develop a fascination for the dead person is less usual. Yet Inspector Dusan will enter into the dead man’s world, mixing with his friends and his ex-girlfriend. 09:06 is a strange story of redemption(s) which starts as a police mystery and becomes a dark psychological thriller.

Croatia

Buick Riviera
dir. Goran Rušinović
6,8/10 IMDB – Trailer

Hasan Hujdur is a 42-year-old Muslim from Bosnia living in America, who finds utopia behind the wheel of his Buick Riviera. Surrounding everything that Hasan loves is a prejudiced world afraid of a culture they cannot understand and a religion they cannot comprehend. Hasan is a quiet man, who stands distant from his beliefs, however it is these beliefs that inevitability lead to his untimely death.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Esma’s Secret: Grbavica
Grbavica, dir. Jasmila Žbanić
7,3/10 IMDB – Trailer

Jasmila Zbanic’s debut film focuses on the Balkan War’s painful aftermath on a Bosnian woman and her daughter. Esma is living with her 12-year-old daughter Sara in Grbavica, a quarter of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo. When Sara wants to participate in a school trip, Esma tries to find a way to pay the full price, although a certificate proving Sara’s father is a war hero would allow her a discount

Serbia

Life is a Miracle
Живот је чудо, dir. Emir Kusturica
7,7/10 IMDB – Trailer

The film opens just as construction has been completed on a railway connecting a mountainous regions of eastern Bosnia and western Serbia in 1992. Luka, a Serbian engineer, has moved to Bosnia from Belgrade with his mentally unstable wife, Jadranka, and his football-playing son, Miloš, to run a railway station and act as caretaker.

North Macedonia

Mothers
Мајки, dir. Milčo Mančevski
7,2/10 IMDB – Trailer

A child’s friend is accosted by a flasher so she decides to go to the police herself; a film crew sets out to find the old traditions and discovers a grandmother living alone in an abandoned village; retired cleaning women are found raped and strangled in a small town. The innovative structure of “Mothers” highlights the delicate nature of truth and fiction, of drama and documentary.

Albania

The Sorrow of Mrs. Schneider
Trishtimi i zonjës Shnajder, dir. Piro Milkani and Eno Milkani
7,0/10 IMDB – Trailer

It’s 1961 and an Albanian student, together with a group of Czech students, is shooting his graduate movie on a motorcycle factory, in the small market-town of Český Šternberk, in then Czechoslovakia. Coming from a country that is completely isolated from the rest of Europe, he is fascinated by the lifestyle, society and “erotic exuberance” of the Czech golden youth, yet feeling strong links with his family in his homeland.

Bulgaria

The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner
Светът е голям и спасение дебне отвсякъде, dir. Stefan Komandarev
8,1/10 IMDB – Trailer

The story of Alex, who, with the help of his charismatic grandfather, Bai Dan, embarks on a journey in search of his real self. The film has received generally favorable reviews from film critics and audiences around the world, having received more than 20 festival awards

Greece

Canine 
Kynodontas, dir. Giorgos Lanthimos
0,0/10 IMDB – Trailer

Three teenagers are confined to an isolated country estate that could very well be on another planet. The trio spend their days listening to endless homemade tapes that teach them a whole new vocabulary. Any word that comes from beyond their family abode is instantly assigned a new meaning. Hence ‘the sea’ refers to a large armchair and ‘zombies’ are little yellow flowers.

Turkey

Ara
dir. Ümit Ünal
6,8/10 IMDB – Trailer

The film’s plot spans a decade and evolves around the relations of two middle class, urban couples, Veli and Selda, Veli’s business partner Ender and Gül. Selda is romantically and sexually involved with Ender, while Gül and Veli are also in an extramarital relationship. The film examines Turkey’s financial and cultural turmoils of the past 20 years through these four middle-class people who search for their own places and stances in society, and through their romantic, friendly and treacherous relations.

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