Europe in 25 films: the critics’ choice squib

The must-see movies that have defined a century of European cinema, as chosen by the Observer’s film writers

Back in 2017, I was asked to contribute a short piece about British cinema to a book entitled Goodbye Europe. The book was a collection of essays, inspired by the recent referendum, offering a series of different perspectives on the thorny subject of the UK’s relationship to Europe, and “what the idea of Europe means to Britons and others living here”. In my essay I argued that, to all intents and purposes, there was no such thing as a “British film” per se – in an age of increasingly international co-production, national boundaries are no longer a defining feature of cinema. Moreover, if you read any interview with a film-maker at the cutting edge of UK cinema, the chances are they will refer to themselves and their work as “European”.

Take as typical these words from Carol Morley, director of The Falling, as she prepared to embark upon a film project in the US: “I’ve always been fascinated by the films the German émigrés made in America, which to me are so very European,” Morley told me. “Film language is universal, and I hope my films transcend boundaries. But recently I saw someone describe [my work] as ‘weird’, so maybe the correct term should be ‘weird European’!”

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