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The Shining (1980)

A guide to winter films

17 January 2018 Katie Da Cunha Lewin

It might be cold and you might be feeling a bit miserable; what better way to spend the month than catching up on some seasonally appropriate films? From Bergman to Rohmer, as well as some experimental documentaries and some Disney, there’ll be something here for you to curl up with this January.

First up is Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure, which quite immediately makes it’s wintery setting obvious, even from the poster: it deals with snow, and lots of it. Tomas’s family is dining at a ski resort, but when snow starts to descend from the mountains around them in a sudden avalanche, Tomas runs away, leaving his wife and young family without his help.  The title of the film refers to a legal term used to describe unforeseen circumstances; in the case of this film, this ‘unforeseen circumstance’ is both the avalanche and the effects its precipitates. Underlying the simple premise is the relationship between masculine individualism and family ties, as well as a moral conundrum: when disaster strikes do you try to save yourself above all else?  


Lucas Hedges in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Another snowy film is The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed by Wes Anderson. Loosely inspired by the writing of Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig, the film centres on a luxury hotel – which incidentally has its own trip advisor page - in the invented Republic of Zubrowka. With an all-star cast, Anderson’s famous aesthetic is in full force in this wintery romp. Another fun but also strange journey into a snow landscape is Guy Maddin’s 2007 film My Winnnipeg. Set in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a town just above America, Maddin’s dreamy film is part documentary, part dramatization, part essay, a kind of ‘tool’ to imagine his way out of his hometown.  In this reimagining, Maddin tells several stories about Winnipeg, and hires actors to play roles in his life, including Hollywood actress Ann Savage in a star-turn as his mother.            


Dale Dickey in Winter's Bone (2010)

A cold and wintery landscape is also a perfect canvas against which to explore profound human emotion. Debra Branik’s 2010 film Winter’s Bone made a star of its lead, Jennifer Lawrence, as well as gaining plaudits both in the US and internationally. The film follows the life of seventeen-year-old Ree Dolly, who lives with her family in the Ozarks, Missouri, as she struggles with an ill mother, young siblings and a missing father. As she travels around the town in search of her father, the viewer gets to know the landscape through the stunning cinematography, and subtle use of winter colour.


Winter Light (1963)

Swedish master Ingmar Bergman’s uses the cold and frosty setting of a rural Swedish town to explore existential dread. 1963’s Winter Light stars Bergman regular Gunnar Björnstrand, Max von Sydow and Ingrid Thulin in this tale of a priest and his flock.  Though only a small town, its residents are in desperate need of spiritual guidance from their priest, who himself feels deserted by God.

If you fancy a chilly scare, then the classic Stephen King adaptation, The Shining is perfect viewing.  Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and directed by Stanley Kubrick, this famous tale of a writer’s descent into madness will cure you of your desire for a weekend getaway in an isolated and snowy landscape.


Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Finally, something a little lighter, 1991’s Beauty and Beast, can provide you with a little wintery magic. The famous tale of the blossoming relationship between a beautiful young woman and a mysterious beast is set against a romantic and snowy castle landscape.  With a whole host of songs and sweet characters, this is still one of Disney’s most beloved animated films.
 
Have you got some recommendations for winter themed films? Let us know in the comments!
 
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