Archiv der Kategorie: Berlinale

Berlinale 2020: Day 11

By Sascha Krieger

Nackte Tiere (Encounters / Germany / Director: Melanie Waelde)

When Benni and Katja finally embrace, after many fights, misunderstandings, accusation, we hear, faintly at first, then more pronounced, a heartbeat. Hers, his, theirs? We don’t know. But the entire film lies in this brief moment. The two are part of a group of teenagers in their final yer of school who form the core of Nackte Tiere, all of them with – mostly unexplained – parent issues, drifting, struggling through life on their own. Katja is a fighter, aggressive, unforgiving, a loner not easily compatible with others. Her on-off boyfriend Sascha is similar which is why they fit so well – and so badly. Schöller is the only one with what seems to be a more or less working family life, one who seeks warmth and closeness wherever it can be found. Laila, his girlfriend, has an abusive mother, and is still protective of her, while Benni is the one they all try to take care of, a lost soul sometimes wandering off on his own, one to be rescued but just might not want to be. The camera is close, moving with them, in an almost documentary-like naturalist fashion, it intrudes, doesn’t let go, stays too close for comfort as they fight, stick together, fall apart, go away on their own but always return to each other – until one of them doesn’t. The film does anything but romanticise friendship as it shows selfishness and the need for one another being constantly at war. And balancing each other out eventually as the desire to be independent and the care for the other remain both strong. Especially as grown-ups are hostile, ineffectual or simply absent. So they cling to each other because they’re all they have. Mentally, emotionally, physically. This fight to stay human, empathetic, committed can be found in every fibre of this energetic, often funny, at other times harrowing and always moving feverishly alive film.

Nackte Tiere (Image: © Czar Film)

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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)

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Berlinale 2020: Day 9

By Sascha Krieger

Sheytan vojud nadarad (Competition / Germany, Czech Republic, Iran / Director: Mohammad Rasoulouf)

A man drives down a winding ramp in a parking garage. Dreary, badly lit, like a maze he will not get out of. Near the end, he will drive it up again, no beginning, no end. At least not for him. In the first of the film’s four episodes, a man goes through his everyday life, stoically, without much emotion, not even when quarreling with his wife when she complaints about the many small instances of discrimination in today’s Iran. Small hints at a country in which all is not okay, but nothing (except maybe the moment when the man stays put at a green light on his way to work) to prepare the viewer for the brutal, abrupt, frighteningly matter-of-fact ending. Narrated in a naturalistic style, this unspectacular story suddenly opens up a universe of moral questions – and completely changes the look at the character and everything else we’ve seen. This first of four stories about the death penalty and the moral decisions to be made when having – presumably – no choice is the strongest as the film suffers somewhat from the problem of episode films. Having introduce the issue, it widens the conversation: episodes 2 and 3 deal with different choices when faced with the order to kill, the third opening the perspective on the consequences this has on a person’s life and those around them, with episode 4 looking at the long-term effects. This all makes sense, is well-observed and without simple answers. The quality of the episodes vary, however. Especially the second is rather heavy-handed with a way to easy outcome, episode 3 could do with a little less of the dramatics while episode 4 comes closest to resume the opening story’s serious tone, showing what the decision to kill or not to kill really does to those confronted with it. Overall, this is a film that gets under the audience’s skin, asking the right questions and mostly in the right ways. Not a lesson but a maze in which simple answers and clear ways out are impossible to come by. It ends with a standstill, a tiny car in the distance among a hostile wide landscape. Where to go? Nobody knows.

Sheytan vojud nadarad (Image: © Cosmopol Film)

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Berlinale 2020: Day 8

By Sascha Krieger

Berlin Alexanderplatz (Competition / Germany, Netherlands / Director: Burhan Qurbani)

Burhan Qurbani’s adaptation of Alfred Döblin’s classic takes the story from Depression era Germany to contemporary Berlin. Instead of Döblin’s struggling worker Franz Biberkopf, the film follows Francis, a refugee from West Africa. This makes sense: the social fault lines have shifted, the downtrodden, the exploited, the cast-away, the new proletariat, these are the fleeing, the refugees, the migrant workers, the „illegals“ that end up as drug dealers, fodder for the capitalist underbelly, ammunition for the ideologues. The latter is absent in Qurbani’s film (he dealt with Neonazi violence in other works), the former all to present. Narrated by Jella Haase’s Mieze, it has the sound of a morality play, a dark tale in five acts. It starts in blood red, the sea Francis is released from and his wife perishes in, upside down, just like this world. Red remains a dominant colour, red light shines in the night, the nightmare that is this story of a dienfall. The camera dances around the characters, it floats with them, rises and falls with them. Albrecht Schuch is a demonic Reinhold, a symbol of everything that enslaves, abuses, exploits. He us the white man, wearing white in a pivotal scene, the colonialist partner that becomes the killer he’s always been. The pale lights flicker on Welket Bungué’s proud face, on his bewildered, defiant, hopeful, naive features. True, the learning resistance he’s inherited from Franz, the refusal to see the Reinhold principle for what it is, feels irritating as do the ritual daughter flashbacks adding a way too obvious symbolism where none is needed. As it stands, the film is a nightmarish dance of death, a dark poem in cold nocturnal colours, a universal, superpersonal morality piece, an allegory of our times. Refugees welcome? Sure, but where and as what?

Berlin Alexanderplatz (Image: © Stephanie Kulbach/2019 Sommerhaus/eOne Germany)

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Berlinale 2020: Day 7

By Sascha Krieger

DAU. Natasha (Competition / Germany, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Russia / Director: Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Jekaterina Oertel)

DAU is Ilya Khrzhanovskiy’s gigantic but somewhat ill-fated art project about totalitarianism. It is also quite controversial, not least because of accusations of power and sexual abuse during its creation. Centered around many ours of film and embedded in a simulation of a Stalin-era-style society, it evolves around a Soviet-era science institute and its secret projects. DAU. Natasha is a two-and-a-half hour film extracted from the material. And it needs to be said at the outset that some of its graphic details sit uneasily especially in the light of the accusations. Judging the film on its own merits, therefore, is a rather difficult task but will be attempted here nonetheless. The film centers on the title character, a woman working in the institute’s canteen. Through much of the film we see her at work which never seems to cease in the hermetic world everyone is caught in. She banters and fights and reconciles with her younger, insolent colleague Olya, serves and jokes with the scientists, drinks with them after hours, sleeps with a French guest expert. The handheld camera captures the scene in grainy, sepia-tinged images, a close-up of a claustrophobic parallel universe which doesn’t have an outside (until the very end when that outside is revealed as yet wider prison confines. Some of this is redundant – especially when the film moves away from Natasha and shows the experiments conducted but also a few of the women’s squabbles are repetitive. However, the sense of this almost absurd airless universe is strong, the atmosphere dense. Which serves the film’s final third well as the dread becomes real and Natasha gets caught up in the deadly grips of the KGB. The interrogation scenes are conducted in the same mixture of naturalism and archival historicism, which makes the more than drastic brutality – which is indeed over the top and even downright abusive at times, especially in its aspects of sexualised violence – even more poignant. The mechanics of totalitarianism are evident in the matter-of-fact sadism of the officer and the „learning curve“ of Natalia Berezhnaya’s Natasha. So, while the film may be a little long, it presents an almost real-time glimpse into an exemplary totalitarian system. Just as if we’re visiting, looking on as invited voyeurs. Which is precisely what the DAU project was intended to be. Even though there remains a bad taste due to the circumstances and those many unanswered questions surrounding it.

DAU. Natasha (Image: © Phenomen Film)

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Berlinale 2020: Day 6

By Sascha Krieger

Domangchin yeoja (Competition / Republic of Korea / Director: Hong Sangsoo)

Three conversations with three women. That’s all Hong Sangsoo’s latest film is. The connecting element is a young woman visiting or happening to bump into old friends. For the first time, she’s away from her husband. They had never been apart before, he thinks it’s natural. Three times she tells this, every time is pretty much exactly the same words. Yet all we see is female bonding, sometimes awkward, often quietly understanding. Men are intruders, threats, side notes. As always in Hong’s films, he accentuates cinematic means: Zooming in, turns to the same motif as a connector between scenes, unmotivated soppy music, slightly distorted, as if played via a tape deck or radio. This creates distance and sometimes comic relief, always tinged with seriousness as in the scene a neighbor comes to compain about stray cats being fed – a masterpiece of hyper polite passive aggressiveness in which the woman stands her ground almost apparently timidly and the final say belongs to a rather confident cat. Humour is a weapon where others aren’t accepted. The film highlights the women’s independence as well as their socially demanded dependance on their male „companions“, the first woman visited has given up for good and the second ridicules quite brutally. As they straddle the fine line between emancipation and social expectation, the film keeps emphasizing its artificiality. The reality it’s clean though somewhat impersonally rigid imaged capture is fragile, almost illusory. And yet, it cannot be denied. In the end, the mountain gives way to the sea as a visual leitmotif, endless boundlessness instead of something to be overcome. Another quietly symbol to be missed at your own peril. Just like this entire beautiful film.

Domangchin yeoja (Image: © Jeonwonsa Film Co. Production)

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Berlinale 2020: Day 5

By Sascha Krieger

Schwesterlein (Competition / Switzerland / Directors: Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond)

Sven is a successful theatre actor suffering from leucaemia, his sister Lisa a theatre author on hiatus devoted to her twin brother. Filmed with many of Berlin’s Schaubühne theatre’s actors including their artistic director, partly on the theatre’s premises, the film’s glimpses into the mechanics of the theatre industry ate among its better moments. The style is the usual German realism, softly lit clear images drenched in a pale light, the camera calm yet without much distance. As Sven’s condition worsens conflicts emerge, especially in Lisa’s marriage, enacted in a more theatre style obviousness. Everything is theatre: from Lars Eidinger’s vain suffering to Nina Hoss‘ stubborn outbursts of despair. The fine cast always overacts a little, as does the screenplay which embraces relationship stereotypes while shying away from really following the siblings‘ relationship towards the more symbiotic and dangerous. While the surface is all drama, underneath it is relatively little substance. Emotions and conflicts are derived and acted out, true existential fear remains largely absent, most notably in Eidinger’s self-indulgent performance. Only near the end, Hoss slightly lets down her guard, revealing a hint at what the film otherwise just describes. But the face soon returns to its controlled expressiveness. All the world’s a stage as Shakespeare wrote, unfortunately, here it isn’t anything else.

Schwesterlein (Image: © Vega Film)

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Berlinale 2020: Day 4

By Sascha Krieger

Undine (Competition / Germany, France / Director: Christian Petzold)

„If you leave now, I’ll have to kill you“, she says. Johannes has just broken up with her but Undine won’t accept it. Paula Beer is looking at him in the half-absent, half-defiant way she’ll only lose shortly when accepting her love with Christoph (Franz Rogowski), an industrial diver she meets just after being abandoned by his predecessor. Undine will make good on her promise, becoming her namesake, a mythical water nymph, popularised during Romanticism. Water plays a pivotal part in Christian Petzold’s new film. It explodes, saves, kills, shelters. It has a hazy, darkly greenish colour to which the film succumbs at its very end. It contrasts with the crisp, cold clean colour scheme of reality, a reality – shot as always with Petzold in rigid, calm, uncompromisingly formal frames, a cold, antiseptic reality unlike the murky waters of love to which Undine belongs. Beer always looks a little out of place in this modern world here, only acquiring that look of quiet confidence when she’s in her element. The realism gives way to, squabbles with, gets mixed up in surrealist moments, an exploding aquarium, a giant catfish, Undine becoming the nymph. Driven by a Bach piano piece giving it a more fairy-tale atmosphere, Undine is a stark, poetic, rough-edged, yet – even though just in short, precious moments – surprisingly warm and tender tale on the traps of love, the impossibility and necessity to let go, the choices we make for love and for life. Undine’s relentlessness, her absolute loving isn’t for this world, Christoph’s gentle warmth is, or just might be. While the film at times tends to tilt a little towards the obvious, it delivers the somewhat surreal, fantastic and frightening extension of reality so typical of Petzold’s work. It offers chances and risks. None can be had without the other.

Undine (Image: © Christian Schulz/Schramm Film)

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Berlinale 2020: Day 3

By Sascha Krieger

Le sel des larmes (Competition / France / Director: Philippe Garrel)

Luc loves Djemila. Luc loves Geneviève. Luc loves Betsy. One after the other or at the same time. Philippe Garrel’s film feels like the essence of French love stories. The man who cannot help but love, the women who are left behind. Strong, maybe, but broken nonetheless. The male point of view is strong in this film that seems out of its time. Sure, Luc is not idolised but shown as selfish enough to be criticised while still scrupulous enough for the viewer to feel sympathy for him. The women, at the same time aren’t merely weak objects but victims nonetheless, dependent on the man’s whims. Even when Betsy exercises her rights to do as she is done with and adds a second man to the fray, Luc will take back control. His father, played angelically by André Wilms is a (male!) moral role model who is way too pure to be believed. The narrative gives the whole story an almost parable-like feel, the grainy black and white aestheticise it further. This is a tale about love and the doubt as well as the belief in it – told mainly from a male perspective. Luc may be acting badly and irresponsibly but he is only a man with strong emotions so what can one do? Le sel des larmes is a rather old-fashioned tale of love that is really selfishness, drenched in soppy piano music, driven by a cheesy off narrative, painted in „romantic“ black and white and full of old men’s fever dreams that have bothered French cinema for too long. Sorry to see them still alive.

Le sel des larmes (Image: © G. Ferrandis 2019/RECTANGLE PRODUCTIONS CLOSE UP FILMS -ARTE FRANCE CINÉMA RTS RADIO TÉLÉVISION SUISSE)

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Berlinale 2020: Day 2

By Sascha Krieger

El prófugo (Competition / Argemntina, Mexico / Director: Natalia Meta)

Inés is a voice actor and choir singer afraid of everything: heights, flying, bats, you name it. When her boyfriend dies in undisclosed circumstances while on holiday, she slowly begins to unravel. An „intruder“ has entered her, she is told by an older colleague, an entity entering throiugh her dreams and altering reality. As reality, dreams and imagination begin to overlap – mixing in some of the set pieces of the Asian horror film she is dubbing – it becomes less and less clear which is which. Ultimately, Inés starts to fight her intruder(s) leading her to the point at which she wonders whether she actually wants to get rid of them. El prófugo is a well-produced genre piece, amospherically solid, especially through its focus on dark, claustrophobic rooms, aesthetically consistent with its clean, polished imagery, including some more unusual perspectives but mostly relying on the proven, and its well enough constructed tension arc although the identity of the (main) intruder is quite obvious early on, with the film adding a nicely sexual element at the end as well as the twist that this might not matter all that much. This is a solid, slightly original, slick and bearably subtle psychological thriller that is rather self-sufficient as such. However, as the first entry in an A festival’s competition, this rather slight work is almost criminally misplaced.

ONWARD

Onward (Image: © 2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.)

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