Golden Words, Silver Screen: 5 Must-See Movies by Nobel Prize in Literature Winners
The Nobel Prize for Literature is like the holy grail of literary honors. However, it is no stranger to some good old controversy. Picture this: a spotlight that often leans toward European writers, raising eyebrows and stirring the pot. It is like expecting a rock star and getting an unexpected opening act instead. Take Arthur Miller, Haruki Murakami, and Salman Rushdie, for example; they were all in the ring, but somehow, the crowd went wild for other, perhaps more low-key but equally stylish contenders. It is like watching an awards show where the favorites do not always take home the golden trophy.
The literary world can be just as unpredictable and head-scratching as the silver screen. What might leave readers underwhelmed can turn out to be a cinematic feast for movie buffs. The world of the Nobel Prize for Literature has, believe it or not, served up some silver-screen gems that will make your jaw drop. So, apart from the likes of Hemingway and Gellhorn, Tom & Viv, and I’m Not There, you have got to keep those peepers peeled for these special creations.
5 golden nuggets from the Nobel Prize in Literature winners that will have you thanking your lucky stars
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Hunger is not just an empty stomach; it is like a ticking time bomb, pushing us to shed our civilized facades in pursuit of a morsel of food. On the big screen, Hunger often conjures images of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp, who made us laugh with his attempts to satisfy his appetite while also crafting profoundly moving hunger scenes. Amid this array, Danish director Henning Carlsen’s adaptation of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger (1966) stands out as a potent exploration of one man’s struggle against starvation and existential despair.
Filmed on the streets of Oslo, formerly known as Kristiania, Hunger is a rare collaborative effort between Scandinavian nations. Knut Hamsun’s novel unfolds the story of Pontus, a struggling writer portrayed by Per Oscarsson, who clings to his dignity in the face of relentless hunger. Pontus’s scribbling on a piece of paper could hold the key to salvation or madness. Furthermore, his act of consuming that paper foreshadows the bleak journey ahead. Hunger is a must-watch for those who appreciate contemplative cinema—a profound character study that leaves a lasting impression. The movie is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Death in Venice (1971)
Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice is a cinematic masterpiece that is as captivating as a work of art coming to life. This poignant tragedy, based on Thomas Mann’s classic novella, is a visual and emotional feast. Set against the backdrop of Venice in 1911, it delves into the inner turmoil of Gustav von Aschenbach, a composer grappling with personal demons. In this mesmerizing tale, beauty takes the form of a young Polish boy vacationing in Venice.
Aschenbach’s obsession with the boy’s ethereal charm, a blend of spiritual and suppressed desire, drives the narrative. The film unfolds in a misty, metaphor-laden Venice gripped by a mysterious cholera outbreak. Visconti’s mastery in recreating historical detail, combined with brilliant cinematography and costumes, paints a vivid picture. The film’s unforgettable conclusion, with Gustav on the beach and the boy as an angelic figure, is nothing short of overwhelming. It is a cinematic masterpiece available to view on Apple TV, Google Play, and Amazon.
The Tin Drum (1979)
Let us dive into an intriguing tale: The Nobel Prize-winning novel, The Tin Drum, hits the silver screen, earning director Volker Schlöndorff Germany’s first-ever best foreign language film Oscar in 1980. The story revolves around Oskar Matzerath, who refuses to grow up, remaining child-sized throughout World War II. He drums his way through life, commenting on everything from adultery to the rise of the Nazis, creating a one-man band of controversy. This cinematic gem not only clinched the Best Foreign Film Oscar but also the prestigious Palme d’Or in Cannes.
A controversy followed the film like a shadow, with scenes sparking censorship debates. It is like a movie that never stops making headlines, just like Günter Grass, the brilliant mind behind the novel, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of this cinematic masterpiece, they decided to give it a makeover, like sprucing up an old classic car. Recently, even Millie Bobby Brown penned her book, Nineteen Steps, based on her grandmother’s World War II experiences.
They took the original 35mm film from the 1970s and painstakingly removed every scratch. Further, they breathed new life into its colors frame by frame. And the result was a razor-sharp, high-resolution 4K version that is worth its weight in gold. The movie is available to stream on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
Lajos Koltai’s Fateless offers a unique perspective on the Holocaust. It unfolds through the eyes of 14-year-old Gyuri Koves, played brilliantly by Marcell Nagy. This is based on Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz’s semi-autobiographical novel. Unlike many Holocaust films, it paints a picture of the coexistence of happiness and beauty amid suffering. Nagy’s performance takes Gyuri from innocence to wisdom, as if he’s “in the world but not of it,” and the film feels like a dream, blurring reality’s edges.
Koltai’s cinematographic prowess creates a visual poem, capturing the cold and gray atmosphere. Gyuri’s transformation, from a confident youth to a frail survivor, is profound. His friendship with Bandi Citrom offers solace and the film’s surprising humane treatment scenes challenge preconceptions. After liberation in Budapest, Gyuri’s assertion that he can endure anything, even finding “happiness” in the concentration camp, becomes acts of defiance, not denial. It can be streamed on Tubi, Prime Video, and Plex.
Away from Her (2006)
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Alice Munro, often compared to literary giants like Chekhov and Melville, raised eyebrows by clinching the Nobel Prize in 2013. She toppled heavyweight contender Haruki Murakami. But let us rewind to 2006 when her short story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, inspired a film that quietly slipped under the radar. Originally published in 1999, the story delves into the struggles of an aging couple dealing with infidelity and Alzheimer’s disease. It is a tale that weaves memory lapses, twists, and boasts an exceptional performance by Julie Christie, all while maintaining a seamless flow.
Away from Her might trigger thoughts of other films, like the interplay of love and memory reminiscent of The Notebook. Still, it is very much a “family film,” akin to the warmth of Big Fish or The Kids Are All Right. The film excels in portraying the deterioration of disease and how humans sift through their memories. It is a more profound take on this theme compared to the acclaimed Still Alice. Sarah Polley’s directing debut also turns heads, making it an unexpected gem. The gem can be streamed on iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, and Google Play.
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Which of the above silver screen gems are your favorites? What more recommendations do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments below.