Desert Island DVDs – Alison Baillie


Alison Baillie’s first novel Sewing the Shadows Together was published in 2015. It is mainly set in Scotland and was partly inspired by her years teaching in Edinburgh. She has also taught in Finland and Switzerland, where she now lives. She visited Iceland Noir in 2014 and is thrilled to be taking part in it this year.

This is a small selection of European films that have stayed in her mind over the years.


Der Verdingbub (The Foster Boy) (Switzerland, 2011)

‘This atmospheric film caused quite a sensation when it came out in Switzerland as, although it is fiction, it is based on real cases in the fifties, when disadvantaged children were fostered by poor farmers and used as slave labour. The film, which has wonderful photography and acting, tells the story of a young boy and girl taken in by an abusive farming family in the Emmmental. The powerful realism of the scenes made a huge impression on me and still linger in my memory.’


Good Bye Lenin (Germany, 2003)

‘I vividly remember seeing this film in small cinema in Berlin when I visited the city for the first time in 2003. It is set in Berlin in 1989, at the time the Wall came down, and is a charming comedy, with a serious message, showing some of the problems of the transition to unification. I’ve been back to Berlin several times since that first time, but I always think of this film when I’m there.’


The Lives of Others (Germany, 2006)

‘This film is set in East Berlin in 1984 and is the story of a Stasi officer who begins surveillance on a playwright and his family and becomes increasingly involved in their lives. It is an incredibly moving and atmospheric film, beautifully directed and acted, and memories of scenes from this film still bring me out in goose-bumps.’


Intouchables (France, 2011)

‘This incredibly funny and uplifting story of the unlikely friendship between a man trapped in a wheelchair and his carer is set in Paris and is loosely based on a true story. I watched it in French and although my French is very rusty I was totally absorbed by it. The acting of Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet is amazing, making this a memorable and thought-provoking film.’


Ashes and Diamonds (Poland, 1958)

‘I was wondering what to choose for my fifth film and I remembered Ashes and Diamonds, the first foreign sub-titled film I ever saw. I was still at school and while my parents were out I stayed up late watching a foreign film season on television. This film came on, a stunning black and white film set in Poland in the closing days of World War 2, full of symbolism and smouldering passion. The title (what a great one) has always stuck in my mind and when I looked it up I could still remember my reaction to it, a kind of wonder at a world out there so different from what I was used to.’

Thanks to Alison Baillie and Iceland Noir.

Iceland Noir booking information.

Alison Baillie is published by Matador


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