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7 films to kill the festive ‘cheer’

December 19, 2015

Think ‘Love Actually’ is shit? Me too. Here’s my recommended anti-Christmas viewing list, based on some of the most depressing films I’ve seen:

7. The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012)

An excellent, under-rated film about a man living in a tight knit Danish community who is accused of paedophilia and is turned on by the community. It’s a pretty good argument against all that Christmas bullshit about love and friendship and all that. No, people are really nasty.
It stars Mads Mikkelsen and his cheekbones, both of which are in phenomenal form.

6. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014)

I fucking love Andrey Zvyagintsev’s films. The Return is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest films ever made, and Leviathan was the best film of 2014. It’s thoroughly depressing critique of Russian corruption, and loosely based on the Book of Job, except there’s no redemption at the end, just the bottom of a vodka bottle. The protagonist is a man who refuses to sell his house to the well dodgy, bent-as-hell local government bureaucrat. But because he’s taken a stand and stands his ground, the shit well and truly hits the fan. When I saw this in the cinema, people chuckled nervously at the sheer volume of neat vodka being consumed, that’s just Russians for you though, isn’t it? Amongst all the harrowing misery is some pitch black humour, and lots of breath-taking shots of remote Russian landscapes.

5. Stoszeck (Werner Herzog, 1977)

This is a film about a poor German immigrant who comes to America, the land of the free, to seek out the The American Dream. But The American Dream crushes him and spits him out as a gooey chewed up splodge of crap. It’s one of the best critiques of American capitalism committed to film, and features Bruno S, a street performer who Herzog spotted and cast in his ’74 film, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.

4. Dancer in the Dark (Lars Von Trier, 2000)

Everyone loves musicals at Christmas don’t they? The gist here is similar to Stroszek, but possibly even darker… well it’s Lars Von Trier int’ it? The utterly fabulous Bjork plays a Czech immigrant who ends up working in a grim factory in the US, desperately trying to look after her kid whilst suffering a horrid degenerative disease that’s making her go blind, and then there’s some religious visions and stuff, and then… well one of the most heart breaking endings ever. But there’s music and dancing! And it’s all filmed in that gorgeous, timeless, dream/nightmare-like way that no ones pulls off better than LVT.

3. The Seventh Continent (Michael Haneke, 1989)

Haneke’s debut film is about a bourgeois family who tell their friends that they’ve moving to Australia but then actually (SPOILER ALERT) destroy everything they own, kill their goldfish and then their kid and then themselves, to Jennifer Rush’s The Power of Love. Apparently people complained because there’s a scene in which they flush money down the toilet. It’s an absorbing, startling debut film from someone who has gone onto be the foremost contemporary critiquer of bourgeois materialism. Oh, yeah, and it was inspired by true events.

Haneke talks about the ‘money down the drain’ scene

2. Watership Down, (Martin Rosen,1979)

Included this one for nostalgia’s sake. This animated film about the trails and tribulations of a group of rabbits is the anti-Pixar. The scenes of blood-filled plough furrows are etched in my mind from when I watched this as kid, and the film doesn’t shy away from depicting the primitive needs of the rabbits, the cruel reality of nature, and the conflict with humans. It’s ethereal, brutal, and if you don’t shed a tear when Art Garfunkel sings Bright Eyes then you have no heart. They do actually sometimes show this on TV at Christmas.

1. Shoah (1985, Claude Lanzman)

You could actually spend the whole of Christmas day watching this eight hour documentary about the Holocaust. Perfect.

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