Berlinale 2014: Day 7

By Sascha Krieger

Aloft (Competition / Spain, Canada, France / Director: Claudia Llosa)

In 2009, Claudia Llosa won the Golden Bear for La teta asustada. Now she returns with a dark, slow drama about guilt, family and wounds that do not heal. Moving back between the past and present, the film follows Ivan, a breeder of falcon and his mother, an artist-healer. Boyhood trauma and adult restlessness interweave and ultimately lead to a late reunion in which past and present become one. The film unfolds in a light, poetic rhythm as the camera moves softly, music sets accents and the puzzled faces of the protagonists move in and out of focus. This is an eternally frozen world of ice and snow, where light is rare and even the infinity of the pale whiteness north of the Polar Circle produces a sense of claustrophobia. Again and again, the camera zooms in, makes everything small and narrow, just like these people who are captured within themselves and cannot let go. The unsaid has frozen them, just like the earth, they won’t melt. They want to soar like Ivan’s falcons but just as Inti, his first one, they are brought to earth. When they have sex, there is something desperate to their cramped clinging. For most of it, Aloft is a compelling, poetic, compelling drama that visualizes inner struggles words couldn’t express. Unfortunately, Llosa feels the need to spell out to much at the end, finishing the film on an overly sentimental note that leaves behind a somewhat stale aftertaste.

Aloft (© Allen Fraser / Cry Fly Manitoba Inc.)

Aloft (© Allen Fraser / Cry Fly Manitoba Inc.)

La tercera orilla (Competition / Argentina, Germany, Netherlands / Director: Celina Murga)

Nicolás is seventeen years old, oldest child of a doctor with two families – Nicolás is part of the unofficial one. The man of the house, he is expected to take responsibility – in the present and the future, as his father’s successor. Also he is subjected to role expectations which he needs to come to terms with or respect. Everyone heaps pressure on him without noticing, communication is mechanical and ends long before it can get to where it might hurt. Thus the facade remains intact but nothing gets resolved. Alián Devetac plays this boy trying to figure out who to be. His face is friendly, calm, open yet occasionally hints at what’s going on inside him. Still, when the pent-up anger finally comes to the surface it comes as a shock, particularly as Nicolás executes it with strategic fervor, just like yet another job. Diego Poleri’s cinematography is intimate, at times has an almost documentary-like feel, the camera remains close to the characters, especially Nicolás, closing in in ever-shifting angles, often past others, visualizing the unstable world they live in as well as Nicolás‘ struggle to find himself. Hard cuts accentuate the fight that remains beneath the surface for most of the film, only showing in Nicolas‘ questioning eyes. La tercera orilla is a quiet, unassuming yet tightly-knit and intense growing up film that also paints a picture of at a society that’s trying to keep up a facade that hides only emptiness, a patriarchal society and the attempt to find a place for oneself in it.

Bai Ri Yan Huo (Competition / China / Director: Yinan Diao)

At the beginning of Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice) things aren’t going well for police officer Zhang Zili: first his wife leaves him, then two of his colleagues die during a botched arrest while he is injured. After this, his life gets out of joint. Years later, now working as a factory security guard, Zhang, suffering from a drinking problem, falls in love and, in order to have something to do, sets out to solve crimes that he left unfinished. Soon love and crime become indistinguishable and Zhang has to make a decision. Bai Ri Yan Huo is a straightforward film noir which takes some time to find its rhythm. when it does, however, there is a feeling of inevitability to it that creates a more and more dense atmosphere. The visual language of the film is bleak and stark, the camera close but detached, the colors washed-out greying. So are the characters, enigmatic, dark, grey instead of black and white. Director Yinan Diao depicts a man’s way back into life, gives him an enigmatic and someone ironic ending that might not conform with the genre used but it does with this rather compelling story. A tightly-knit, formally strict, dark yet humane film.

is a film noir in which an ex-cop who survived a shooting goes on a lone hunt to solve a series of killing spread over several years.

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