Sunday, 15 February 2015

Mindfulness and the Art of watching Foreign Film

It used to be considered slightly pretentious to enjoy foreign language films. I remember when I and my uni friends endured rather than enjoyed turgid epics of incomprehensible philosophy in the guise of entertainment, just because someone we admired had told us it was a 'must see'. Another three hours I'll never see again.


In the last couple of years though, we have been introduced to the best of world television and you know what? It's really quite enjoyable. I've also found that watching programmes in a foreign language actually forces me to focus in a more mindful way. I cannot multi task, I can't let my mind wander - at least not without having to rewind. I don't watch foreign language television close to bed time - it's too stimulating. If you really must know, a good dose of Dave's output is enough to push me over into the land of nod, or at least to release myself from the iron grip of 'TV drift' as I reach for the remote. Foreign language television forces me to stop using the TV as wallpaper and to think about what I am getting from my television experience.

Before I was introduced to mindfulness I thought that my television habits were a useful way to escape from difficult emotions. But when I considered how I was watching, I realised the sheer immersive joy I once experienced as a child had been lost. TV had become bubble gum for my mind, and gum which had long ago lost any flavour or pleasure. This reflected by general inability to engage with life at that time. As I began to notice the world I inhabited again, as my concentration returned with treatment, I rediscovered my enjoyment of film.

That was in time to take advantage of the rise in really good foreign drama appearing on our screens. In addition to having to focus on following the story, it widens my horizons. London, New York, Manchester, LA, they've become over familiar. I love being exposed to different landscapes - yes when nordic, they're bleak, but it's really fascinating to see that their doors open outwards - I'm guessing so the snow doesn't fall inside??
So here they are my top foreign picks:

The Bridge (Series 1 & 2) - Danish with brilliant interplay between the Swedish and Danish cops. Copied as the Tunnel in English - good but definitely lacking something.

Isabel - Spanish Epic and really engrossing historical drama based on the life of Katherine of Aragon's Mum.

The Legacy - Danish family drama - simple idea but really delivers - apparently there'll be a second series.

Crimes of Passion - Swedish about a crime writer (female) set in the early 60s - funny too - at times.

Arne Dahl - Swedish Police Drama - what they call 'gritty'.

Wallander - Swedish and British - Love both versions something just quality about both.

Mammon - Swedish political thriller

And currently I'm watching my way through 'Spiral' French - excellent gritty police drama - with female leads.

Of course there's the Killing but I found that my recovery started too late for me to jump on that particular wagon.

When I need to get really absorbed and lose myself for a while, I set the TV up, switch off the lights and prepare to pay attention to the subtitles!