Ask the reader: favourite films for springtime

By Christian Bland, and Nicholas Lemieux

As the first signs of spring appear, Film & TV’s contributors offer their favourite films for the season.

Lost in Translation

Initially, this film seems a simple ode to feeling apart from the rest of the world, but its aesthetic also has a freshness and a stillness that seems to encapsulate the mood of an early Spring morning. Filming the hazy streets of Tokyo with distance, and even reservation, time seems to drift for much of Sofia Coppola’s film, its characters existing largely in the earliest and latest hours of the day, mostly in their corporate hotel. Just like the weeks appear to blur amid the temperate weather in the earlier days of Spring — before the heat of Summer arrives — Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray almost blend into their surroundings for much of the first half of the film. The music by Air has a similarly cyclical quality, encouraging the viewer to take a step back, even as the gorgeously natural chimes, signifying coming vitality, kick in. Yet, as their journey progresses, there is a growing sense of intimacy with the world around us as it blossoms into life, especially evident in the wedding Charlotte happens to witness as she wanders alone through Kyoto in one of Coppola’s most subtle and evocative scenes. In this sense, her film could also be read as a journey through the season, transitioning through its grey early days to the edge of a vivacious Summertime.

There is a growing sense of intimacy with the world around us as it blossoms into life

Miss Potter

As the long-drawn-out nights of winter are coming to a close, and we reach for light and picnics in the park, there is one film I return to. With its wistful reflections reminiscent of cold days melting into the peaceful promise of spring, Miss Potter charts the life story of eminent children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. It depicts the undulating green landscape of the Lake District in pale light and rainy days, with breathtaking scenery. Beatrix’s (played by the versatile Renée Zellweger) raspy, emotive and soothing accent, a score of calming orchestral music, and Katie Melua’s ‘When you taught me how to dance’, are at once an entrancing and cathartic trio. The healing power of physical, engaging tasks is presented in the simple actions of walking, sketching and painting. And, of course, the delightful presence of ducks, mice and rabbits throughout the film, known as Beatrix’s friends, is synonymous with the birth of new life. With its nostalgic notes at heart, and literary narration, the film traces the pain of loss alongside triumph, framed by the limitless landscape of the Lakes, which tenderly evokes the importance of care in friendships and romance, like a breath of fresh air. 

The Prince of Egypt

With spring also being a time for Easter, my personal movie pick to get into the spirit of things would be 1998’s The Prince of Egypt. One of the first DreamWorks films from back when they used to do 2D animation, the film is a profound retelling of the story of Moses that, in spite of its Disney-esque design, refuses to shy away from the darker elements of the Book of Exodus. The all-star voice cast does a stellar job, particularly Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes who bring the strained brotherly relationship between Moses and the Pharoah Rameses to life in truly heart-breaking fashion. The songs are phenomenal to the point where it comes across as no surprise that the film later received a musical on the West End; and the animation, blending traditional animation with CGI, is spectacular with the parting of the Red Sea being especially breathtaking. Regardless of whether you are religious or not, it is an accessible film for people of all faiths (and none) and perhaps even stands as one of the best animated films of all time, if only for the sheer magnitude of what it portrays as an animated Biblical epic. I certainly encourage you to give it a watch if you have the time!

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