Archiv der Kategorie: Berlinale

Berlinale 2019: Day 1

By Sascha Krieger

The Kindness of Strangers (Competition / Denmark, Canada, Sweden, Germany, France / Director: Lone Scherfig)

At 2001’s Berlinale, Italian for Beginners brought a lightness to Denmark’s purist Dogma 95 movement that it had hitherto lacked. The film’s festival success kicked off director Lone Scherfig’s international career, so it seems fitting that she was allowed to open this year’s edition. One year on from the start of the #MeToo movement, the festival is aiming for a strongly female point of view. This Scherfig’s new film provides. It centres around a young mother of two who leaves her abusive husband to hide in New York City. After a few rejections, they begin to meet the title’s kind strangers, mostly people having had some low movements themselves, some of them being in dire need of help. Stylistically, the film could hardly be removed any further from Dogma 95: heavily edited, full of (mostly string) music, carefully composed images lit, of course, artificially. The story is heavy, filled with homelessness, loneliness and two near-deaths from freezing. At the same time, Scherfig’s fine sense of humour is present – as things get more hopeful, the tone gets lighter. The story has its issues, some of its turns are close to cringe-worthy, bordering on kitsch. However, Scherfig is clearly aiming at a fairy-tale like feel, turning a drab naturalistic tale into a vision of hope, centering more and more on an out-of-time Russian restaurant that, seemingly removed from the outside world, ist this film’s version of a fairy-tale castle. The way, she intertwines the various strands reveals a masterful lightness, finely balancing out the film’s heavy subject. The price is that it can feel a little lightweight at times and can be a bit of a tear-jerker at others as well a being somewhat flat on character depth and development. The pronouncedly female message of hope it delivers does feel honest though and has its effect. A brilliant cast led by Zoe Kazan and Andrea Riseborough does the rest.

The Kindness of Strangers (Image: © Per Arnesen)

Weiterlesen

Werbeanzeigen

Berlinale 2018: Day 11

By Sascha Krieger

L’empire de la perfection (Forum / France / Director: Julien Faraut)

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, tennis enthusiast Gil de Kerdemac produced various series of instructional films about tennis. Starting with simple dry demonstrations of techniques and movements he later started filming the greats of his day during competitive matches.  His favourite subject soon became John McEnroe, the emotional and sensitive genius of 1980s tennis. From that footage, French director Julien Faraut has constructed a film about the pursuit of perfection – in sport and in film making. He looks at McEnroe’s obsessive perfectionism but also at the evolution and techniques of the films de Kerdemac made, has both realms mirror each other and sides of the same coin. The search for perfection in the one is used as a symbol for that in the other. Which makes sense, especially when it’s done in such a light-hearted, humorous and gently ironic way. Particularly convincing are the isolation of images only looking at one player (McEnroe) and the series of the same scene from different angles. This allows us to look at the familiar in different ways, sometimes bordering on the absurd, as well as show the difference between film making and TV and the images Gil de Kerdemac produces are quite different from those of live sports broadcasts. However, the viewer grasps the point rather early on during these 95 minutes and soon – the audience’s reaction was obvious – focuses more and more on the match the film closes with, McEnroe’s 1984 French Open final against Ivan Lendl. And suddenly we’re much closer to the realm of distanced and unreflected sports TV than the film would like us to be.

L’empire de la perfection (Image: © UFO Production)

Weiterlesen

Berlinale 2018: Day 10

By Sascha Krieger

The Berlinale is a strange festival. When it ends, it isn’t over yet. When the Bears are handed out, there is still a day of screenings to go. Perhaps that’s only right: Berlin hosts the world’s largest audience festival and so the audience should have the final say. Having said this, everyone looks at the awards and it’s a rather depressing sight this year. Where Cannes and Venice pride themselves in awarding feats of cinematic art, Berlin loves being different. They go for smaller films and overlooked geographies, unusual work, they like to surprise. Touch Me Not, this year’s winner is such a surprise: an international production with a Romanian director, it blurs the borders between fiction and doocumentary, ans is daring in its direct and taboo-chasing approach to human intimacy. TA controversial choice and a spectacularly bad one. The film is arguably one of the worst in the Competition, superficial, chasing shock effects and artistically close to a nightmare. „An invitation to dialogue“, director Adina Pintilie calls it at the winner’s press conference. That it might be. A women director’s film with a female protagonist radically exploring her physicality, is a statement. Politically but also – and not in a good way – artistically.

 

Drvo (Image: Berlinale)

Weiterlesen

Berlinale 2018: Day 9

By Sascha Krieger

In den Gängen (Competition / Germany / Director: Thomas Stuber)

What an opening: Still lie the aisles in this superstore somewhere in the eastern parts of Germany. A peaceful twilight lies in the air. The sweet sounds of Johann Strauss‘ famous waltz „An der schönen blauen Donau“ (of 2001 – A Space Odyssee fame) fill the room while forklifts glide elegantly through the aisles. Director Thomas Stuber explores the poetry and prose of a modern supermarket – a world in its own, self-sufficient, a miniature edition of the larger, scarier one outside, which is why In den Gängen hardly ever leaves it. Franz Rogowski plays his second leading role in this year’s competition, a quiet, soft man with a floating voice that doesn’t really seem present. It’s the story of his arrival, shedding a past discovered only late when he has already found his place. Complemented by the sad cheekiness of Sandra Hüller and the dry melancholia of Peter Kurth, two of Christian’s co-worker, chief among a group of characters finely moulded no matter how small they are and excellently played by a stellar cast. The loving glance Christian directs at the forklift long before he’s allowed to operate it, is longing and a promise. A new life in the beauty of faithful efficiency. The sunless world has its own soft glow in Stuber’s film, brightening just a little as it moves on. As this is life, there is love and death, too, and a few clichés which can be forgiven. At the end, as we’ve roamed through the aisles and observed their grid from above, the camera fleetingly moving from distance to closeness and finding its space in-between, where both meet, everything is open, the rough poetry of this safe space, pale, a little run-down, but a refuge of its own, has exhibited a glimpse of magic. Which brings this year’s Berlinale Competition to a strong and moving end.

IN DEN GÄNGEN (R: Thomas Stuber); v.l.: Sandra Hüller und Franz Rogowski

In den Gängen (© Sommerhaus Filmproduktion / Anke Neugebauer)

Weiterlesen

Berlinale 2018: Day 8

By Sascha Krieger

Museo (Competition / Mexico / Director: Alonzo Ruizpalacios)

Juan is not very popular with his family. They mock him as a failure or because of his shortness. His response is hostility, the refusal to even conform to the most basic of agreed social behaviour. Ab true pain in the ass, one might say. A man void of any clear-cut identity. Like his country. The plundering of Mexico’s cultural heritage is the second layer of the film – an act Juan both detests and repeats as he robs the archeological museum with a friend. Why never becomes clear. They go on a road trip, first to sell the artifices, then to run away. Gael García Bernal plays Juan as a childish tyrant, an extremist who regards making compromises as the ultimate treason. Everything must be unconditional which makes him an outcast – among his family but also in a country based on compromise, blurring its conflicting level of heritage so as not to confront them, a faceless country and a faceless man not accepting this. Museo constantly changes its mode of expression – from the restless handheld camera chaos of a Christmas dinner where Juan is the disturbance so nobody has to face their own dysfunctionality to a serious of comical freezes during the robbery, a disconnection from reality to disjointed sound and images all narrated by the friend’s voice over. Juan is a memory, a puppet, everybody’s scapegoat which finally, he gives himself up to be. In order to function, society has to remain unconscious, preserve its apologetic narratives, must not face the truth. What does the truth matter if there’s a good story to be told he asks. And a good story he provides. The film is a thriller, a comedy, a satire, a road movie. One after the other, all at the same time. Playful, entertaining, cheekily subversive. Pick your story. Avoid the truth.

201813586_4

Museo (© Alejandra Carvajal)

Weiterlesen

Berlinale 2018: Day 7

By Sascha Krieger

Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot  (Competition / Germany, France, Switzerland / Director: Philip Gröning)

Elena and Robert are twins. Elena is about to graduate, Robert had to repeat a year. Together they spend a sun-soaked weekend around a rural petrol station learning fer Elena’s philosophy exam.  Truth and time are at the centre of their conversations. Mostly Robert speaks, reading and paraphrasing from St. Augustine and Heidegger. Thinking is waiting, time is hope. The hope wanes as the film progresses. An infinite three hours later, blood floods the petrol stations floor, a body sits on the toilet and Elena has her exam. In-between? Endless talking in a melancholy drone, close-ups of body parts, water surfaces, insects, shots from above. Every now and then the footage turns grainy, like a half-preserved memory. Waiting for life to begin. Distance and closeness, action and inaction. Time is non-linear, circular, coming to a pause. Or at least, thats what it says. In reality, it does move on, slowly, unbearably so. Elena and Robert follow their rituals, live their symbiotic relationship. even a daring bet – about her getting laid before her exam – doesn’t seem to change much. They engage in banter with the station clerks and play around with a child. Not much happens though everything is supposed to change. They throw fits, reconcile. Out of nowhere an escalation. Unexplained, with not much of an effect, it seems. Philip Gröning’s film is trying to be an elegy, two people, almost one, at the edge of becoming separate entities forever. The camera ebbs and flows gently, the narrative hangs in the balance between episodic fragments and rivers of time. Time stands still, even when it hits hard. After all, the present doesn’t exist. According to Robert. But what does? Them? Julia Zange and Josef Mattes are at times captivating as this couple that tries to assert their own identities but cannot escape their collective one yet. They cannot save the film which meanders rather aimlessly for two hours before losing grip entirely in its final third. A meditation about time and growing up? No, just a collection of admittedly rather pretty pictures.

201810231_1

Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot (Image: © 2017 Philip Gröning)

Weiterlesen

Berlinale 2018: Day 6

By Sascha Krieger

Ang Panahon ng Halimaw (Competition / Philippines / Director: Lav Diaz)

It will haunt you, this monotonous „la la la“ that sounds like a threat, a weapon, a death sentence. It is introduced by the leader of a paramilitary militia somewhere in the Southern Philippines during Martial Law in the late 1970s. This is where Lav Diaz, decorated with a Silver Bear and a Golden Lion just in the past two years, takes us in his new film (though he is not interested in visual historical accuracy). They rule a village with violence and intimidation, hold their subjects in check with a made up religion of fear and persecute dissenters. Violence is an everyday act. It happens in the distance or is at least partially blocked from view. The camera is a detached observer, distant cold, most of the time freezing its world in still frames. A small world it is – country lanes, the interior of shacks and huts, a field, the militia’s headquarters. The perspective never widens, the outside world though not absent doesn’t matter, it stays out or gets sucked in. The characters do not talk, they sing. This may be film history’s first a capella musical. The militia’s songs are monotonous, restrictive, ritual, when imagination takes flight as in the case of the unexplained muse singer accompanying poet Hugo coming to town when his doctor wife is abducted, who expresses a universal hope and sorry that the people living her cannot and must not convey themselves. The singing creates distance, it forces the viewer to listen, to shed expectations and allows him to see things in a fresh way. It makes the unheard heard and lifts the banal up to the universal. For what is happening here is not restricted to this time and place, the struggle between oppression and resistance a never-ending cycle. Diaz‘ slow clean black and white images, drenched in a magic light, bright and twilight-like at the same time, real and as from a dream, convey a cold world, pale, gripped with fear but also poetic, imaginative, bursting rules just by defying logic, staying on a scene for way too long or depicting the seemingly irrelevant. For life happens outside the framework of rules, freedom is stubborn and finds its niches. Ang Panahon ng Halimaw creates its own wold, space, time, a fascinating, mesmerising song of life, with its own rules that free and don’t restrict. May the river of life, meandering but ploughing on, sweep away the dark. As in this memorable, dream-like, gentle and mind-shattering film.

Ang Panahon ng Halimaw (© Giovanni D. Onofrio)

Weiterlesen

Berlinale 2018: Day 5

By Sascha Krieger

Utøya 22. juli (Competition / Norway / Director: Erik Poppe)

On July 22, 2011, an far-right terrorist murdered 69 people, most of them children and teenagers, at a summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya. For 72 minutes, he hunted them down and shot them, one after the other. Exactly 72 minutes is also the duration of the unedited single-shot sequence at the centre of Erik Poppe’s film. One second Kaja, the central character, and her friends are discussing world politics and eating waffles, the next they’re running for their lives. The camera remains with Kaja, staying close as if seeking shelter itself, sharing her point of view. We see and hear what she sees and hears. Shots, screams, a shadowy figure in the distance. The shooter remains effectively unseen, it’s quite late until bodies appear. It’s in its first phase after the massacre starts the film is at its strongest, when it focuses on the fears in Kaja’s and her friends faces, their helpless, panicked responses, their shocks. The film observes and visualises the uncomprehending primal fear leading to small unwilling heroism and equally subconscious cruelty as the kids are reduced to fighting for their lives. A difficult, somewhat voyeuristic point of view that cannot help but watch even when it tries to share their perspective. But at least it doesn’t betray them and their story. Unfortunately, the film does not trust this directness‘ power. So it starts inserting teenage type stereotypes, clichéd existential crisis conversation (at one point Kaja even starts singing!), there is – of course – a long dying scene, an increase in shock effects and even a few gender stereotype – in the end, if some one can keep it up, it’s a boy. The longer the film lasts the more soap opera like it becomes, showing the fictitiousness of all characters, triggering tears and shock in an expert way that feels shallow and almost pornographic. A clever shift of perspective at the end cannot help as it’s pure effect. Perhaps some stories should be left to those who can truly tell them.

201814411_1

Utøya 22. juli (Image: © Agnete Brun)

Weiterlesen

Berlinale 2018: Day 4

By Sascha Krieger

La prière  (Competition / France / Director: Cédric Kahn)

Thomas is a beaten young man – or boy, which never really becomes clear. Bruised are his face, his body, his soul. He checks into a religious retreat for addicts such as him. Angry at first, he becomes milder as he first falls in love and then  finds God – which v´creates a new conflict. The film indulges in long shots which at their most effective when they document Thomas‘ struggles, especially early on. Anthony Bajon plays him as a blank page, but one previously written on. Close-ups abound, there is a restlessness in the images that corresponds with Thomas‘. The narration is linear yet there remain gaps between the scenes. Which is the film’s main issues. Its unwillingness to explain what happens in-between to Tomas does not open rooms for imagination, it fragments Thomas‘ character and eventually the entire story. None of his developmental steps feel plausible, yet all are quite predictable – not a great combination. The film dwells long on the community’s rituals, the prayers, the testimony, the ritualised apologies. Scenes are repeated with different personnel to showcase Thomas‘ growth. The problem is that a predictable plot the effects and objectives of which are always in plain sight clashes with the film’s refusal to take a stance. It seems to look at its subject with rather little interest. The problem isn’t that the film doesn’t provide answers, it doesn’t seem to care about the questions. So it leaves the viewer with the most clichéd possible endings. And the impression that mechanics beat substance here.

201819375_1

Genezis (Image: © Genesis Production)

Weiterlesen

Berlinale 2018: Day 3

By Sascha Krieger

Transit  (Competition / Germany / Director: Christian Petzold)

In Anna Seghers‘ novel Transit, people trying to flee France just as the German occupation sets in during World War II wait for their passage, their visas, the way out. One of them is Georg played by Franz Rogowski, one of this festival’s „European Shooting Stars“, who through a number of coincidences assumes the identity of a German writer granted a visa to Mexico. Director Christian Petzold adds a special twist: while the story remains intact, the scenery in present day Marseille. This achieves several things: for one, it opens paths into today, to the refugees of our time, languishing in other port cities, waiting to flee in different directions but with the same urgency and despair. And of course, also to a present in which fascist ideologies snd „us versus them“ are becoming more mainstream every day. It also creates a distance adding to the layered approach of the film. For as the story unfolds in front of our eyes, a second narrative layer appears, the report of a bar tender, telling Franz‘ story in the pest tense. Fort the present is just remembered, the past present. It repeats itself in a never-ending cycle of waiting. The fate of the refugees is far away, viewed through the distance of Petzold’s cold, still, immaculately clean frames, the bar tender’s reading, the chiseled and always just a little abstract, formalised lines, attributed to those characters, those ghost of unseen humans from outside. A film seemingly old-fashioned and straightforward, yet layered, complex, not telling a story but the telling of it, its invention, the need for it, for giving names to the nameless. Transit is a highly intelligent and well-structured film that is also a reflection about film’s own power and limits to tell stories. However, its strength is also its weakness: the distance it creates hold the viewer at bay, makes them appreciate it intellectually but emotionally, leving them as cold as those images.

201815866_1

Transit (Image: © Schramm Film / Marco Krüger)

Weiterlesen

Werbeanzeigen