Adapted from the eponymous video game, this masterful debut is a shocking historical drama, a melancholy coming-of-age tale, and a nightmarish horror film. It's 1962 Taiwan, during the time of the White Terror, and martial law is in full force on the island. In this time of extreme repression, all ideas considered to be dissident are banned, and the culprits are tortured or executed. Tsuihua Secondary School is not an exception from this oppression. Despite close surveillance by the military police, Professor Chang (Fu Meng-Po) runs an underground literary club where he and his students learn about banned books and dream of freedom. One of his club members, Fang (Gingle Wang) is madly in love with him. The usually shy teenage girl from an abusive home manages to open up like a book in his presence. Then Chang disappears. One night, Fang wakes up at her desk, but the school has changed. As she wanders through the sinister corridors and other dilapidated rooms in search of her teacher, she meets Wei (Tse Jing-Hua). Together, they must confront the ghosts and deformed monsters that have taken over their alma mater to find out what happened there.
103 min | 2019 | Taiwan
Bogdan Mirică’s Dogs is the most haunting and gruesome Western to come out of Europe in decades. In Dogs, we meet Roman (Dragoș Bucur, star of the classic Romanian noir Police, Adjective), who has just arrived on a vast plot of vacant land bequeathed to him by his late grandfather, known locally as Uncle Alecu. While selling off Uncle Alecu’s property, Roman learns that the land came into his family under murky circumstances. Then, after coming upon mysterious midnight meetings on the land, Roman discovers exactly what happened on Uncle Alecu’s watch, and why it will be both difficult and dangerous to sell his land: The squatters, led by the fearsome Samir (Snowpiercer’s Vlad Ivanov), are a gang of criminals so dangerous that the local police captain (Romanian cinema legend Gheorghe Visu) is powerless to protect him. After his friend disappears and a detached, chewed-up foot washes up, Roman must either cut his losses or stay and fight. With gorgeous, sunbaked widescreen cinematography and masterful performances by three of Romania’s finest actors, Dogs is a terrifying allegory about class and corruption that builds towards a grim and bloody showdown. With Dogs, Mirică places himself squarely in the Western tradition exemplified by Sam Peckinpah and Anthony Mann.
105 min | 2016 | Romania, France, Bulgaria, Qatar
For Berliners, the Baltic island of Usedom was once the most luxurious destination for excursions within striking distance of the city, and where imperial Germany’s grand health resorts of Bansin, Heringsdorf, and Ahlbeck were built. Heinz Brinkmann—who was born in Heringsdorf—traces the eventful history of his island, from the magnificent villas on Europe’s longest beach promenade and the expulsion of Jewish citizens by the Nazis to Usedom's division into German and Polish halves after WWII. During the GDR era, lack of means and resources to build any new construction ensured that most of the island's spa architecture remained intact. Since the fall of the Wall, however, investors have been trying to replace it with indistinguishable luxury residences. In Usedom, we hear from the mayor infuriated by the architectural eyesores of recent years, a farmer who bought an island in the Achterwasser lagoon for his organic cattle, a Polish hotel manageress, and other bridge-builders between the two countries.
96 min | 2017 | Germany