World Language Teachers Recommend Dramatic, Historical Foreign Language Films

Cyrus Berger, Staff Writer

Foreign film suggestions from prep world language teachers ranged from surrealist short films to classic fairy tales to historical thrillers.

Madame Mobarek, Prep’s new French teacher, recommended three films, starting with Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of Beauty and the Beast (in French, La Belle et La Bête). Mme. Mobarek also suggested Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist, a 1970 French, West German, and Italian co-production about 1930s Italian fascism. Finally, Mobarek recommended the short film The Andalusian Dog (in French, Un Chien Andalou). The film, directed by Luis Buñuel and the painter Salvador Dalí, is filled with surreal and disturbing images taken from the directors’ dreams.

Frau Khouri recommended a few German historical dramas she shows in her class. In German 3, she shows Downfall (in German, Der Untergang), a 2004 film detailing Hitler’s last days. “The movie is not a normal war movie,” she said.

To teach about East and West Germany in German 4, she shows three movies: the 2006 Oscar-winning secret police drama The Lives of Others, the 2001 Berlin Wall thriller The Tunnel, and the 2004 comedy Good Bye, Lenin!

One of Frau Reichl’s picks similarly focused on German history. Das Boot (The Boat, in English) is a 1981 German classic about a World War Two U-Boat crew. Frau Reichl said that it’s “pretty heavy and sad,” but that it depicts historical events “in a really thrilling way.”

Her other choice, Head Full of Honey (Honig Im Komf, in German), is a 2014 comedy-drama about a man with Alzheimer’s and a journey he takes with his granddaughter. Frau Reichl called it “so moving and so emotional and so funny.”

Señora Navarro highlighted the work of two Spanish language directors: Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro and Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. She recommended Del Toro’s 2006 Pan’s Labyrinth, which deals with the Spanish Civil War through dark fantasy, and Almodóvar’s newest movie, Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria, in Spanish). She warned that many of her favorite Spanish movies deal with violence and dark themes but said that “there are a lot of interesting directors out there in Spain and even more in Mexico.”

The teachers’ choices included fantasy, comedy, and surrealism, but often focused on dark periods of history. The teachers felt that these movies, both light and dark, could teach students about history and culture around the world. “You learn something from it,” Frau Khouri said.