Through April I managed to see 39 films, a lot better than March when I only saw 26, but still not as many as I would have liked. I had many of my final university deadlines within April, or early May, so I spent a lot of time preparing for those. I did however, manage to see a great deal more silent films this month, and also many films that I have wanted to see for a long time. I managed to see more Almodóvar films, which made me even more appreciative of his work. I saw a lot of films this month that I felt could have made this list, and you can see a list of all the films I watched in April here. Also, check out my friend’s list of her top 5 films of April here. This is my pick of the top 5, and a few reasons why:
5) Snow White and the Huntsman (Rupert Sanders, 2012)
Although probably not the best adaptation of the classic fairy tale, this film had a lot of positive aspects in terms of the gorgeous visuals. The scene in which Snow is faced with beautiful mystical creatures for example was visually stunning, and was further complemented by the dainty music (composed by James Newton Howard). The costumes were elegant, whilst at the same time being suited to a warrior – perfect for Snow who was a tougher take on the damsel in distress. The characters were a lot more fierce – Snow in particular, and I felt she was more reflective of modern day heroes. A pattern can be seen in more independent princesses in recent films (Brave (2012), Princess and the Frog (2009), for instance), and I felt that Snow was another suitable role model for a 21st Century female. Kristen Stewart’s feisty portrayal of the classic princess, and the enchanting mise-en-scéne of the film, means that this film belongs in my top 5 films of April.
4) Kingdom of the Fairies (Georges Méliès, 1903)
In typical Méliès fashion, the enchanting imagery in the film is distinctive in its theatricality and soft shades of pastel. The fairies, underwater creatures, amongst other archetypal and fantasy figures enhance the magical atmosphere of the film, whilst Méliès’s filmmaking trickery brings the sets and mise-en-scéne to life, making the film look like it was taken straight out of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For a film made in 1903, when the practice of filmmaking had been around less than a decade, Méliès’s Kingdom of the Fairies is a real triumph in terms of special effects, despite being considered as mediocre by some compared to today’s standards of CGI. However, there is no escaping the infinite beauty and magic of a Méliès film, and I felt that Kingdom of the Fairies was the perfect example of that, which is why it belongs in my top 5. It’s hard to describe why it is that Méliès films are so mesmerising, so take a look at Kingdom of the Fairies here, and let me know what you think in the comments.
3) M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
One of the first post-war German Expressionist films, M is essentially a film noir that brings Expressionism into the talking film. Fritz Lang cleverly incorporates the shadows of the haunted, expressionistic screen into a film made when the art movement had essentially died. It is is set in a neighbourhood where children are being kidnapped and murdered, and chaos builds as people, unaware of who the culprit really is, start accusing each other. The mystery, fear, and uncertainty of the people is reflected in the visuals of the film, guided by Lang’s creative, artistic direction that can also be seen in Metropolis (1927). The film was well-written, and can also be considered as a capture of the traumatised mind of the shell-shocked, German soldier. I love Expressionism, and felt that Lang brought it back to life in M.
2) Shakespeare In Love (John Madden, 1998)
In contrast to the typically slow-paced heritage films, Shakespeare In Love is a grand display of colour and luscious costumes inside a playful romance that takes the historical figure and puts an extravagant twist on the way he lived his life. The film is primarily a romantic comedy that references many of Shakespeare’s works, primarily Romeo and Juliet, which the characters act out, and The Twelth Night, with the lead lady of the film, Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow), being named after the lead female of the play. The film can be considered as liberating for females, as Viola breaks away from her oppressive society, dressing as a boy in order to act, at a time when women were not allowed on the stage. Shakespeare In Love is thoroughly thrilling from start to end, and was nominated for a whopping 13 Academy Awards, breaking records as that was the most at the time when the film was made (1998). It was similarly highly successful both in England and internationally. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and found it to be one of the best films I have seen of the year so far.
1) I’m So Excited! (Pedro Almodovar, 2013)
I’ve always been such a huge fan of Almodóvar, and I’ve been looking forward to I’m So Excited! for a long time, particularly as I saw it in a preview screening with a satellite Q+A with the master director himself. The film returned to Almodóvar’s roots of bold, primary colours (although in this film they were limited to the reds and blues of the aeroplane seats, and the Steward uniforms), and a playfulness of gender roles. Never a dull moment in this comedy, Almodóvar thrills audiences with dance numbers as the characters travelling by plane all face the threat of the aircraft crashing. For audiences who have never seen an Almodóvar film, it’s hard to imagine just exactly what they are like. They cleverly merge high art film with melodrama, which is often regarded as falling at the other end of the filmic spectrum. I’m So Excited! is possibly my favourite of Almodóvar’s films, with Volver (2006) and All About My Mother (1999) naturally being the exceptions, and so this belonged in the #1 spot of my top five films of April.