Archiv der Kategorie: Berlinale

Berlinale 2021: Reviews Part 6

By Sascha Krieger

Nous (Encounters / France / Director: Alice Diop)

In Nous, Alice Diop moves along the RER B regional train route through Paris and drops in on the lives of people outside the public eye. There is the elderly caregiver, Diop’s sister whose clients provide glances into the struggles of old people no longer useful to society but also a richness in memories and generosity, society neds to make more use of. Diop films a Senegalese man repaiting cars, children sliding down a hill, groups of vong PoC chilling, interviews a writer reading from diaries. Juxtaposed in a church service celebrating the king executed in the French Revolution and a hunting party that seems to come from a different time. What starts almost like a naturalistic social study that is not immediately discernible as non-fiction turns into a calm, quietly observed mosaic of lives on the outside. Inserting footage of her dead father and an old Super 8 video with her long gone mather appearing, Diop includes her own history in what appears to be a warm, generous, patient picture of a society that only seems to exist on its fringes. What connect the monarchists and the immigrants wasting their lives away forgotten, what except the train running though all these lives? Alice Diop has no answer except her film in which all of this is connected through the power of the truthful camera eye. It tells its own story, benevolent, fragmented, honest, hopeful.

Nous (Image: © Sarah Blum)

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Berlinale 2021: Reviews Part 5

By Sascha Krieger

Una película de policías (Competition / Mexico / Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios)

In the end, they catch him. Agter a spectacular chase into an underground station, the two cops arrest the robber they started following several blocks away. The scene leading to theis is a mixture of hughly crafted genre fare and its own parody. Of course, it’s fake, a heroic as well as humorous look at police clichés. The reality is different and director Alonso Ruizpalacios comes at it from many angles. First he has to cops tell their story, quite convincingly until it turns out they’re just actors who are then shown rehearsing their lines as well as infiltrating police academies and departments to learn about being a cop, reflecting on it in video diaries, before the real cops appear, those they played and whose falling out with their superiors they have just enacted. Una película de policías is an elaborate dance of fiction and reality, of clichés and stereotypes and real experiences. In under two packed hours, the systemic problems are made clear, the corruption, the neglect, the utter cynicism of the statement in which cops are victims and culprits at the same time. But also the idealism of many shows, there is no black and white in the blue. It’s a wild ride in which acting becomes a metaphor for police work, where it is involved, too, though, as an actor says, whereas he acts within fantasy, they do so within reality. The levels mix, become almost indistinguishable. What’s real, what’s fake? Whatever it is, it’s serious as hell. And deadly. In many different ways.

Ha Nan Xia Ri (Image: © FactoryGateFilms)

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Berlinale 2021: Reviews Part 4

By Sascha Krieger

Guzen to sozo (Competition / Japan / Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

Two women meet on an escalator. They seem to recogniz each other as old friends or more. Even after noticing their mistake, they decide to continue to play, each taking the part of the one the other mistook her for. It’s the third part of Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s triptych about the what ifs of human relationships. And it#s a masterpiece in its light tone, it pale but bright and crisp images full of disappointment and hope, its exploration of what was and could have been as a gate towards moving on. It’s a masterpiece, too, in depecting women, the repressed feelings, lives as compromises, the strength of perseverence, the freedom an unexpected valve carries. All these are present in the other episodes, a love and friendship triangle with two alternative endings and a (rather weaker because of a more traditional stereotype of a woman coming to find herself through the tutoring of a man) failed and then ironically successful attempt at trapping a professor (with an ending that violates the rest of the film’s tone). Bound together by Robert Schumann’s piano music, these three miniatures composed of real-time scenes are glimpses into the eternal as well as very modern struggle to find a way in life and to other people that roles and expectations – society’s and those internalized – often handicap. The poetry of desire, emotion and self-determination and the ironic tragedy of the unknowable other creates a lightly treading, quietly intense gem that in the end, finds this elusive path in the irony of not recognizing who one thought one knew and getting to know if not them but at least oneself in the process. The viewer walks more lightly after the closing credits roll.

Guzen to sozo (Image: © Neopa/Fictive)

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Berlinale 2021: Reviews Part 3

By Sascha Krieger

Petite Maman (Competition / France / Director: Céline Sciamma)

When her grandmother dies, 8-year-old Nelly gets to empty her old house with her parents. After the sudden departure of her mother, nelly finds a new companion with whom she has more in common than she expects. Paintes in gentle, slightly fading autumn colours, Petite Maman embarks on a quiet journey of self-discovery and the exploration of what it means to be a family, treading the awkward line between finding one’s individual identity and forging the connection with others. While the dialogue often appears beyond the years of those who speak it, it as well as the crossing of lines between the real and the imagines, the past and the present (or is it the future?) feels entirely natural, being narrated in a loconic, naturalistic way, the camera a close, but somewhat detached observer, a neutral eye, not wondering about what it sees but accepting it as a journey of discovery, a first step towards growing up. A keen observer of childhood, director Céline Sciamma brings tenderness as well as a sceptical distance to her story and protagonists. What blooms in the struggling light of the aging year, is not spectacular but it spans all ages, all lives while never abandoning the personal, individual stories it tells. A fleeting glimps, a deeply moving miniature, a great film in the best sense.

Petite Maman (Image: © Lilies Films)

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Berlinale 2021: Reviews Part 2

By Sascha Krieger

Inteurodeoksyeon (Competition / Republic of Korea / Director: Hong Sangsoo)

A young man, a young woman. In almost timeless black and white, a distant memory, a casual story told. By whom? Who knows. Three episodes does Hong Sangsoo build around the pair. Momentary glimpses the spaces between them the viewer has to fill. The stories remain sketchy, much to guess. It’s a film about the unknowable, the other person, that enigmatic being. As so often with Hong, the camera pretends to be a neutral observer but really shapes our view. Subtle zooms, slow moves from one face to the other, it accentuates, loneliness, distance. A film not directly commenting on but being informed by the pandemic. There is just one real physical touch, right at the end, a necessary one, almost apologetic. But it sets the screen on fire, highlighting what is missing in these lives dominated by the unspoken, the unspeakable, by a never-ending series of constant withdrawal. The other remains distant. Is she looking at us, two friemds wonder when spotting one of their mothers in the distance. They don’t try and find out. Don’t bother her, the son says. Just 66 minutes long, Hong’s film is an essay on the human condistion, a semi-abstract poem, a sketchy study on the lengths we go to not to bother each other. Until it explodes in an uncalled for embrace. Black and white magic, a sigh, a cry for love. A humble masterpiece.

Inteurodeoksyeon (Image: © Jeonwonsa Film Co.Production)

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Berlinale 2021: Reviews Part 1

By Sascha Krieger

Ich bin dein Mensch (Competition / Germany / Director: Maria Schrader)

Alma is a successful anthropologist who has given up on love and adopted a cynical facade following a traumatic event. She participates as an expert in an experiment to evaluate the ethical aspects of humanoid robots created to become a human’s perfect partner. Maria Schrader’s film is a quite entertaining back and forth as Alma struggles to stay aloof from Tom and not be enticed by his well-programmed affection which, of course, ultimately fails. It is to the film’s credit that it tries to address the wider-reaching ethical and philosophical issues of artificial intelligence and its drive towards becoming ever more human less in a preaching, dictactic way but as a natural part of the plot, of dialogue and interaction, by embedding the theoretical in the situational. It dows so by adopting feature of the romantic comedy, in a very Germany, a little rougher way. The taming of the shrew kind of stereotype isn’t too heavy-handed and the conventional storytelling has a light enough touch. In the end, however, the film opts for the easy way out, the lighter-hearted self-development slash romance angle. The friendly lighting conceals little but hides too much, the softening of the hardened woman cannot quite escape its sexist roots. Thus, the film falls short of the exploration of what it means to be human that it clearly tries to be but provides enough moments of hinting at it in a playful way to make it entertaining and reflective enough to send the viewer on their own train of thoughts – if they choose to embark on the journey.

Ich bin dein Mensch (Image: © Christine Fenzl)

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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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