5 things to watch this weekend – 19 to 21 April

A song from 1,000 years ago wreaks havoc, while family responsibility weighs heavily on a Mongolian maths whizz.

19 April 2024

By Sam Wigley

All You Need Is Death (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Ian Lynch of the Mercury Prize-nominated dark Irish folk band Lankum provides an appropriately ominous score to this inspired – if uninspiredly titled – horror film from director Paul Duane. It centres on two Alan Lomax-style ethnomusicologists who travel Ireland recording folk songs. One day, they hear tell of a woman who has had a song handed down to her through the generations over 1,000 years, but which has never been recorded. As they set out to find her, Duane atmospherically builds up our intrigue to hear this wrenching ancient ballad – there’s something of Jerzy Skolimowski’s great film The Shout (1978) and its comparable anticipation of sonic dread. Of course, dark forces are unleashed once we do: the modern urge to record and file, to trespass on vernacular culture, cannot go unpunished. This is brilliant, bloodthirsty stuff.

If Only I Could Hibernate (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

“If only we could hibernate, like bears in winter,” says the little brother of 14-year-old protagonist Ulzii, sitting on a bunk in their yurt in a poor neighbourhood of Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar. Life is a graft for Ulzii, who unexpectedly becomes the guardian of his siblings after their mother walks out on them. Stomachs need feeding and the cold is biting. Ulzii is showing great promise at school, and his teacher wants to enter him into a physics competition. The resulting scholarship could change his life. But short-term survival is more pressing than long-term ambition in this warmly dramatised debut from 34-year-old filmmaker Zoljargal Purevdash – one of relatively few films that reach us from Mongolia. Purevdash’s humane drama moves between the snug interior of the family yurt and the crisp winterscapes outside.

Dark Waters (2019)

Where’s it on? BBC2, Friday, 23:05

Dark Waters (2019)

A handbrake turn after his underrated whimsy Wonderstruck (2017), this gripping eco-drama from Todd Haynes is the soberest, most straight-talking thing he’s ever done. In the mould of cover-up investigation movies like The Insider (1999) and Spotlight (2015), it features Mark Ruffalo as the corporate lawyer who finds himself defecting to the side of the little people after a farmer from his Ohio hometown convinces him that his cattle are being poisoned by polluted water. A tale of corporate malfeasance with frighteningly expansive implications, it’s based on a real story, first broken in a New York Times article, and makes no bones about dragging the name of US chemical company DuPont through the dirt. Dialling down his usual lush formalism, Haynes seems fuelled by righteous anger here, charting Ruffalo’s dogged quest over many years – each of them permeated in the same greyish, autumnal gloom.

Experiment in Terror (1962)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Saturday, 01:15

Experiment in Terror (1962)

In between Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and his wrenching alcoholism drama Days of Wine and Roses (1962), Blake Edwards took a Hitchcockian turn with this noirish thriller about a bank teller (Lee Remick) being terrorised in her home by an asthmatic sadist. Seen today, Edwards’ film looks like an American forerunner of giallo or the Brian De Palma/John Carpenter breed of stylish stalker thriller. Glenn Ford plays the FBI agent assigned to investigate, Henry Mancini provides the sultry score, and the film rivals Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) for its slew of evocatively used San Francisco locations, including scenes at Fisherman’s Wharf and a breathless chase through Candlestick Park. Better known for his comedies, it’s the first of Edwards’ occasional ventures into suspense. 

A Hidden Life (2019)

Where’s it on? Channel 4, Monday, 00:50

A Hidden Life (2019)

Terrence Malick’s towering 10th feature takes its title from a Middlemarch quote and its inspiration from the life of an Austrian farmer, Franz Jägerstätter, who defied the Nazis to become a conscientious objector during the Second World War. The story begins in another of Malick’s earthly paradises, the Alpine village where Jägerstätter’s community live in bucolic calm until war breaks out and Hitler’s forces call upon the farmers to enlist. Although it’s shot in the director’s characteristically rapturous style, this monumental study of one man’s unbending faith and principle arguably represents a slight retreat to more traditional storytelling after Malick’s run of latter-day experimental features. It gives us the best steer available on how his upcoming Jesus drama The Way of the Wind might play.