A WEEKEND of hit movies - from comedies to thrillers to drama - which have been box office smashes and/or won awards on the European continent, will be screened at the Town Hall Theatre when the annual Subtitle - European Film Festival comes to town.
Time was when watching non-English language films was a niche, even at times, elitist, preserve, with many put off by thinking such films would be too challenging, or by the attitude of 'I want to see a film, not read it'. However, since dramas like Borgen, The Killing, and The Bridge began to make their way onto TV screens in Ireland and Britain, attitudes to foreign language films and programmes have changed forever, with the public now recognising, seeking out, and hungry for quality viewing from the Continent.
The Subtitle festival - which will screen 11 films, from nine different countries, among them the Palme d'Or winning The Square, and the 2017 European Film of the Year winner, Loveless - on Friday January 26, Saturday 27, and Sunday 28, is about showing how continental European films are accessible, exciting, and richly entertaining.
"It is fair to say the festival is going from strength to strength really," says Subtitle founder and director Richard Cook. "This will be our fifth Galway Subtitle and the numbers really shot up last year, with just over 1,000 tickets sold. People are beginning to trust the brand, which is great to see. As always, I try to get the best available titles and I'm proud to say this year there are nine Irish premieres out of the 11 we are screening."
The festival opens with Polish film Beyond Words (January 27, 7pm ) directed by Urszula Antoniak. Nothing in Michael, a young and successful Berlin lawyer, hints at his Polish roots, until the sudden appearance of his father, long presumed dead, plunges Michael him into an existential crisis.
This is followed by the 2017 Dutch rom-com Waterboys (9pm ), directed by Robert Jan Westdijk. You cannot choose your father. Neither can you choose your son. Victor is a cynical crime novelist; his son Zach is a cello-player. When they get thrown out by their women on the same day, the two men have to sort out themselves and their relationship during a turbulent trip to Scotland.
The screenings on Saturday 27 start with 2017 Spanish drama The Fury Of A Patient Man (12 noon ), directed by Raúl Arévalo. After eight years in prison after a failed robbery, Curro has one thing in mind: to find his family and live a normal life. However the arrival of a mysterious stranger will shake up his plans and drag him into a dark and unrewarded journey to revenge.
The Untouchables, a French comedy from 2011, directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, will be screened at 2pm. Regarded as something of a modern classic in France, it tackles the troubling subjects of, and stereotypes about, race, unemployment, and disability.
Next up is neighbouring Belgium with the 2017 mockumentary King Of The Belgians (4.30pm ). Directed by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth, this is a surprisingly respectful ribbing of the incongruity of monarchy and Belgium, in its blend of gently satirical humour with deeper underpinnings.
Then, at 6.30pm, comes the award winning Russian film Loveless (6.30pm ), directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev. Zhenya and Boris are going through a vicious divorce marked by resentment, frustration, and recriminations. Already embarking on new lives with new partners, they are impatient to start again – even if it means threatening to abandon their 12-year-old son Alyosha.
Saturday's films conclude at 9pm with a second French film, Number One, directed by Tonie Marshall. Timely, topical and thought provoking, Emmanuelle Devos (Coco avant Chanel ) stars as a business executive attempting to crash through the glass ceiling and become the first woman to lead a major French company.
Sunday closes the festival with four films, starting at 12.30pm with the Danish drama Winter Brothers, directed by Hlynur Pálmason. Elliott Crosset Hove (Follow The Money, The Bridge ) plays Emil, a young man who works with his brother in a limestone quarry. He's also a bootlegger, selling his home brewed, adulterated, alcohol to his co-workers. Relationships change when the mixture prepared by Emil is accused of poisoning one of them and the trust of those around him, including his brother, drifts away.
Swiss film Animals, 2017, directed by Greg Zglinski, is on at 2.45pm. A collision with a sheep begin a series of weird and unsettling experiences for Anna and Nick, leaving them uncertain of exactly where they are in the world, and in their own imaginations – or are they in someone else’s imagination? Animals is an unorthodox and original combination of spooky atmospherics, thriller, and mind-bending mental puzzle.
One of Sweden's most popular actors, Rolf Lassgård (Wallander, Dag, Sebastian Bergman, The Hunters ), stars in the 2016 film, A Man Called Ove, directed by Hannes Holm (4.45pm ). Ove, an isolated retiree with strict principles and a short fuse, has largely given up on life. His days are spent in a constant monotony of enforcing housing association rules and visiting his beloved wife Sonja’s grave. Then Ove’s routine is disrupted with the arrival of a boisterous young family who move in next door.
The festival concludes with the 8pm screening of another Swedish film, the 2017 comedy The Square, directed by Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure ). This is a knife-sharp satire on art, culture, and communication in the digital age starring an international cast of Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale, Mad Men ), Claes Bang (The Bridge ), and Dominic West (The Wire ). It won the Palme d’Or at the last year's Cannes Film Festival.
Tickets are €9/8 or €55 to see all 11 films and available from the Town Hall Theatre (091 - 569777, www.tht.ie ).