Still from Pauline at the Beach.

These movies will make you crave post-lockdown life

Tired of life in lockdown? These movies will remind you that the world is still big, beautiful and waiting for you once the pandemic is over.

by Douglas Greenwood
05 November 2020, 9:00am

Still from Pauline at the Beach.

It’s official: while many countries in the warmer climes of the Eastern hemisphere seem to be managing the coronavirus pandemic efficiently, Europe and America have royally fucked it. Eight months after it first threw us all into varying states of lockdown, here we are again, facing an equally distressing sequel. In the UK, lockdown 2.0 arrives on Thursday. It follows similar events across the continent over the past few weeks. And if you’re in America? Well, the turmoil of the presidential election is getting to people, and going outside feels like playing with fire anyway. So as the nights grow darker and colder, wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just switch off for a couple of hours and escape to somewhere comparatively idyllic via the power of the movies?

For many who won’t be able to see friends, get outside (due to the shitty weather) or head to galleries, theatres or cinemas to escape, curling up at home and pretending that things will be ok by way of a movie is our only option. Here are seven that will do a stellar job of transporting you to new worlds in which nature, romance, parties and faraway lands are right at your fingertips. 

When Marnie Was There 
Released in 2015, this miraculous little Studio Ghibli movie is based on an English fairytale and tells the story of a young girl who moves from the city to the sea-lined countryside in Japan to deal with her asthma. But when she arrives there, the discovery of an abandoned mansion — save for the presence of a mysterious young, blonde-haired girl — forces her to look deeper into her new circumstances: where is this girl’s family? Does she even exist? What other secrets lie within this small, marsh-lined town? What unfolds is the most gentle, picturesque ghost story you’ll ever see — a reminder of the world’s beauty and what’s good in it — from the makers of such masterpieces as My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson has a habit of making films that feel shaped by their own quirks and aesthetics, but few match the well-rounded, chocolate box decadence of The Grand Budapest Hotel: an absurd, immaculately framed caper about a bellboy, a hotelier and their shared escapades across Europe. Maybe it’s the exuberance of the hotel itself, painted shades of blue and pink? Or those beautifully symmetrical shots of Zero (the bellboy) and Saoirse Ronan’s Agatha plonked in a pile of colourful cake boxes? The Grand Budapest Hotel is both light-hearted and a huge technological achievement, as well as a reminder of what it’s going to be like to explore those quaint historic towns in pockets of Europe once the bullshit blows over.  

La Dolce Vita
Parties are a far-flung memory for most of us who stuck to social distancing guidelines. And unless you’re a Kardashian who can afford to test all of their mates several times before allowing them entrance to your private island-slash-bougie dinner party, it’s highly unlikely you will have experienced anything quite like La Dolce Vita in a very long time. This 1960 film directed by Federico Fellini tells the story of a roving reporter living a carefree life of excess and hedonism, seeking a purpose for his otherwise downtrodden life. Three hours long and comprised of seven parts (plus an epilogue and prologue), it’s a sprawling look into what life was like for the upper classes in mid-20th century Italy, complete with dawn frolics on gorgeous beaches, mad-hatter house parties and wading into the Trevi fountain. Sometimes, particularly for the rich and famous, life can veer close to fantasy. For us viewers, La Dolce Vita, with its parties, pools and privilege of the upper classes, is best treated as such: a magical alternate reality you can get lost in for a few hours.

Still The Water 
Lots of us had dreams of exploring new parts of the world this year, be it a sprawling city or somewhere calmer, somewhere more like the setting of Still The Water: Japan’s Amami Island. This sweet story, one of the many entries in director Naomi Kawase’s deliciously low key filmography, follows two young friends — a boisterous girl named Kyoko and a timid boy called Kaito — as their lives become more and more embroiled in the slow, symbolic happenings of the island they live on. Soon, it transforms into a stunning and enigmatic love story, built around beautiful music, masterful cinematography and smooth, sympathetic storytelling. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of these remote spots, then go out and embrace it! For everyone stuck in the moody suburbia of satellite towns, this is a lustrous reminder of what it feels like to fall in love and be at one with nature. 

Pauline at the Beach 
When things first started “getting back to normal”, a phrase that has since lost all meaning, the place the masses headed to was the beach. This romantic coming-of-age arthouse classic from Eric Rohmer, titled Pauline at the Beach, will have you yearning for everything you’ve missed in the past eight months: sweet glimmers of love, sunshine you can enjoy without fear of contracting a deadly virus and the freedom that’s felt by standing on a beach and looking out to the water, knowing a whole world lies beyond it. It’s a story that follows two cousins, Marion and Pauline, as they head to a small Normandy cottage by the sea for the summer. There, a series of awakenings unfold: boys act like trash, romance ensues and the whole thing rolls into the ultimate ‘staycation’ movie… one that exists in a world without government-mandated restrictions.

The Great Beauty
Much like La Dolce Vita, The Great Beauty is one of those super old-fashioned Italian party movies that has a slightly problematic air without solid evidence to prove such, but that nonetheless sings and sparkles from every single surface. Set in Rome, it follows an ageing writer as he looks back at his lavish past, frequenting the expensive bars and nightclubs of the city, and questions where his future lies. Not only does it bear its philosophical side quite proudly, but it also provides you with a dazzling insight into the lives of the obscenely rich. Critics called this film “monstrous” when it first came out, which makes it feel like the perfect film for those seeking a reminder of what wild, controversial happenings they can get up to once the restrictions are lifted and we can kiss strangers at parties again. 

Wings of Desire
There’s a real need for little glimmers of hope in times like these, and glimmers of hope almost entirely shape the narrative of Wim Wenders’ influential, 1987 classic Wings of Desire. This romantic fantasy, widely cited as one of the best films of the 80s, is about invisible angels that watch over modern-day West Berlin, listening in on conversations and identifying those lost humans in need of salvation. It quickly escalates into a love story between an angel and a circus trapeze artist, the former of which sacrifices everything in favour of becoming a sentient mortal, to experience life as humans do. That in itself, we suppose, makes this a film perfectly designed to make you yearn for life after lockdown; one in which our inhibitions lead, free of the restrictions placed upon us. Wait it out, folks: one day this will be over, and all (or most) of the things that you see in these movies will be safe, legal and free for you to partake in too. 

Wes Anderson
Studio Ghibli