Berlinale 2020: Day 10

By Sascha Krieger

Futur Drei (Panorama / Germany / Director: Faraz Shariat)

The freshly crowned winner of this year’s Teddy Award as the Berlinale’s best queer film, Futur Drei follows Parvis, a son of Iranian immigrants living somewhere in a German small town, having to work at a refugee shelter due to some unnamed offense. There he meets Bana snd Amon, brother snd sister, the latter of which he falls in love with. Far from being a problem or even culture clash film, Futur Drei observes the developing relationships up close with a mixture of realism and impressionist tableaux, collages and slowmotion sequences bringing moments of happiness, of letting go, of sometimes illusionary hope to life. All three are wanderers between worlds and identities, leading to shifting, unstable relationships – between the three, Parvis and his doting family, Parvis snd his two „homes“. The film touches on heavy subjects with ease and the slightest of touches as well as some humour – from identity, national as well as sexual, to deportation, from coning out to sexual abuse. It dies so because it relies on the characters, it trusts them, their confusion, their struggles, their courage. Benjamin Radjaipour’s Parvis carries the film, a mercury-like seeker for his own path which leads him to understand that either-or is not the only kind of decision that can be made. As are they all. Without drama, without didactic fervour. After his mother expresses her fear that he feels he doesn’t belong, Parvis says that sometimes he feels he does, that he wants to scream „I am the future“. There or three of these futures here. We’d do well to accept them.

Futur Drei (Image: © Edition Salzgeber, Jünglinge Film)

Vento Seco (Panorama / Brazil / Director: Daniel Nolasco)

Sandro is a middle-aged gay man working at a fertiliser factory. Constantly on the look-put for sexual encounters, he finds a co-worker who ehe might even fall in love with. The problem is, due to some rather contrived trauma he spells out in the middle of the film, he keeps his emotions, his self, ultimately, inside. What remains are pent-up sexual fantasies which the film lives out to the fullest. So Vento Seco is basically a rather strange combination: the portrait of a stony-faced, constantly sulking, always refusing man and a series of all to explicit sexual imagery. There is incessant masturbating, suggestive shots of body parts, sex in all kinds of varieties, fetish fantasies, et cetera. A fever dream of frustrated sexual desire thrown at the helpless audience. As the film and its protagonist refuse to open up his shell, this is what we’re left with: manifestations of desire and longing lacking much of a  foundation in story or character. Even the question which is „real“ and which just imagination doesn’t really come into play as there isn’t much reality to begin with. The social activism side story – there are serious health hazards at the factory and the effort to set up a new trade union – remains unconnected to the rest, the clash between dry naturalism full of pale, rigid imagery and the feverish night colours of the sexual aspects isn’t played out. What this film wants – besides mildly shock with its (homo)sexual explicitness – is totally unclear after almost two hours.

Semina il vento (Panorama / Italy, France, Greece / Director: Danilo Caputo)

Suddenly, the figure taking centre stage blurs. The young woman shifts out of focus which moves to the olive tree behind her. It’s this shift that Nica wants. Coming home under unclear circumstances, she finds her family’s olive grove under threat – from bug, but also from people. Looking for an antagonist to kill off the threat, she discovers her own antagonist: her own family. In Semina il vento, idealism clashes with pragmatism, hope with cynicism. The front lines are clearly drawn: from the moment, the father appears, the viewer knows he’s not one of the good guys. The film is clearly on Nica’s side – even when she crosses several lines in the end, the ambivalence Kelly Reichardt extends to her eco-terrorists in Night Moves is entirely absent. Nica’s fight against evil is narrated with understatement, quietly, with some, at times too much attention to detail. The soft late summer colours gradually give way to an ever colder, hostile night. Nica, however, hardly changes. Her (somewhat over)pronounced early naiveté is replaced by a pent-up anger but mostly Yara Vianello’s face remains a blank page. Which helps make the film fall a little flat. The story is on the simplistic side, the generational conflicts worn out (Nica sides with the more esoterical – an unnecessary side story – grandparent generation while the parents‘ pragmatism doesn’t receive much understanding), the narration too slow and a little unfocused, character development pretty much absent. A didactic piece, too quiet to touch, too formulaic to make you think.

Tipografic majuscul (Forum / Romania / Director: Radu Jude)

In 1981, a 17-year-old Romanian boy, Mugur Călinescu, wrote some anti-government slogans on fences in his hometown. On the incident , the country’s secret police, the Securitate, conducted several operations, resulting in files that are the basis for a play by Gianina Cărbunariu, which in turn, is the foundation of Radu Jude’s film. Creating  brightly coloured, rather abstract TV set (with symbolic backdrops symbolizing a tape recorder, a facade, later a classroom), the film re-enacts statements taken by the Securitate and protocols of secretly recorded conversations. The actors speak the texts without any gestures, in the case of dialogue, they just stand still in front of each other. This has a two-fold effect: for one, it directs the attention to the words, the betrayals, the attempts at mitigation, the poison of distrust and misinformation that infected even the family core. Secondly, the mechanical, almost robotic stiffness is a good symbol of a paralysed society, one where the only choice is to go through the motions as if everything was fine. A society of which the boy is a part, as he „re-integrates“, reports about his success with an almost panicky enthusiasm. Quietly defiant a moment ago, he is broken like everybody else. To emphasise this, Jude adds footage from Romanian TV, propaganda stuff, approved entertainment, lightweight service pieces, even controlled „criticism“. The official Romania, happy, revolutionary, devoted to its dearest of of leaders. This can be absurd, ridiculous at times and clashes violently with the very real threat the Securitate posed to everyone who stepped out of line. At the very end, the former „investigators“ form a grotesque Last Supper. They did their job, they say, they didn’t really harm anyone. The bountiful supply of food on the table is for them, the victims have long departed.

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