EIFF 2014: Best of Europe

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We round up the best European films we saw at EIFF 2014.

This year, Edinburgh International Film Festival once again lived up to its international remit by screening some great new films from all corners of the globe. Here are our picks for some of the top films at the festival that were made inside the EU.

 

The Anomaly

the anomaly brian cox

The latest effort from Adulthood and 4.3.2.1 director Noel Clarke is a sci-fi tale of shadowy villains and futuristic bio-technology. As well as directing, Clarke plays the lead role of Ryan Reeve, an ex-soldier who is kidnapped in the opening moments of the film and dropped into a world that he doesn’t quite understand. Ryan finds himself blacking out and waking up somewhere completely different, with no knowledge of what has happened in the interim, so he’s faced with the mammoth task of finding out what role he plays in the subterfuge he finds himself surrounded by.

There are plenty of rough edges in The Anomaly, but the sheer scope of what the film sets out to achieve is laudable. This is Hollywood sci-fi done on the budget of a independent British drama, and it shows; but at the same time it somehow adds to the film’s appeal. A few ropey special effects and some groan-inducing dialogue stand alongside some clever ideas and a fast-moving plot to situate The Anomaly among the ranks of cult movies like Timecop and Equilibrium. If you’re looking for a throwback action movie with a sci-fi twist, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.

 

Korso

korso inset

This excellent coming-of-age drama from Finland follows the story of Markus, a youth living in the town of Korso that hopes to escape to New York City using his abilities as a basketball player. However, the only way he can gather the money to pay his airfare to get to the US is by employing the services of a local loan shark, which inevitably ends in Markus crossing dangerously close to the wrong side of the tracks.

Crisply shot, with robust performances from all of its young cast, there are a few hints of La Haine in the raw peril that the main character puts himself into over the course of the film. Special credit has to be given to Petri Mannine for his skin-crawling turn as loan shark and general scumbag Murikka, bringing some nuance to his performance while playing a character that could quite easily have been one-note in the hands of a lesser actor. Korso manages to avoid many of the well-worn tropes of this sort of plot, delivering a story that’s fresh, modern and very affecting.

 

A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide

a practical guide to spectacular suicide

This home-grown comedy wrings every last drop of comedy out of the bleak-sounding subject matter of a man who’s committed to taking his own life. After an optimistic attempt at offing himself by walking into the sea, Tom Collins is forced to undergo counselling, as well as perform community service. The three people he meets as a result – atypical psychiatrist Dr Watson, the troubled but breezy Eve and the elderly man he has to look after to repay his debt to society, Mr Nielsen – all help him through his problems, but perhaps not in the ways you might expect.

The jokes come thick and fast in this one, with all the cast doing justice to the excellent script co-written by director Graham Hughes. The anarchic comedy of the first half of the film could quite easily have turned into something saccharine for its conclusion, but happily the best laughs are saved for last. Scottish comedy can sometimes be rather insular and foreign to anyone outside of the country, but A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide manages to distil something of the essence of Scottish comedy, retaining its cutting edge while still being accessible for a wider audience. This is a film to seek out.

 

Hyena

hyena peter ferdinando

A taut and stylish crime thriller that operates in the same sort of vein of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, the opening film of the festival certainly displays the influence of its peers, but does more than enough to carve its own niche and avoid seeming derivative. Corrupt copper Michael finds himself being attacked on two fronts when he is investigated by an internal affairs unit while attempting to settle a score with a sex-trafficking gang of Albanians.

A terrific performance by Peter Ferdinando grounds the character of Michael with a sense of realism and gravity that the rest of the film can build around. Beautiful cinematography and a memorable supporting cast of characters ensure that there’s always something new on-screen to command your attention, but the gripping central narrative is no slouch, either. There’s something of a ‘car crash’ feel to Hyena; no matter how awful things get for Michael, you can never quite bring yourself to look away. Visceral, violent and completely engaging throughout, if you’ve got the stomach for it, Hyena is a great film and great evidence of the exciting state of British film.

 

Read more: EIFF interview with Finding Vivian Maier’s Charlie Siskel

 

Featured image: Film4

Inset images: Unstoppable Entertainment; B-Plan Distribution; Film4

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