Best Foreign Movies 2014

The 10 Best International Films of 2014

In surveying some of the best foreign-language films of the year, it’s become clear that many have common themes. Some are about the primacy of family and crises in masculinity, while others center on rehabilitating the past and finding spiritual meaning in the secular world. But all of these films follow characters whose basic needs — familial and romantic stability, sexual fulfillment, and creative expression — question just how progressive modern society really is. Here are ten essential international films from the past year.

ida

Ida

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Polish period drama, shot by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (My Summer of Love, Margaret) in rich, stark, black-and-white photography, lends an uncommon gravitas to a young nun’s quest for spiritual fulfillment. Set in Poland during the early 1960s, the film follows its titular protagonist, Ida Lebenstein (a tremendous performance by Agata Trzebuchowska), as she seeks new information about her Jewish parents — both murdered during the Holocaust. Zal and Lenczewski’s rapturous cinematography gives a stunning texture to mundane objects and settings, from snow falling on cedar trees to watery broth in a bowl, and makes Ida one of the year’s most engrossing films.

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