If there’s one thing the Berlin Film Festival has in abundance, it’s films. With hundreds of entries from across the world, the annual Berlinale provides a welcome reminder that the New Year hubbub building around mainstream awards ceremonies isn’t really what cinema is about.
Sitting after nominations have already been announced, and before the starting gun fires for the next wave, Berlin transforms for a week and a half every February as professionals and fans from across the globe flood in. While Cannes sits atop the pile as the prestige festival, and Venice has history and the city itself, Berlin brings an eclectic mix of titles and good access for the general public. So it proves again this year with director Darren Aronofsky heading the jury for yet another strong line-up mixing intriguing debuts and the return of renowned auteurs.
The Competition section, where 19 films will fight it out for the coveted Golden Bear, forms the heart of the programme. 2015 opens with Nobody Wants the Night from prolific Spanish director Isabel Coixet about the clash of cultures on the trail to the North Pole in 1908. Arguably the biggest name on the list is Terrence Malick, returning with Knight of Cups, another examination of existence starring Christian Bale and Natalie Portman. Werner Herzog might have something to say about that as he arrives with Queen of the Desert, his undoubtedly unique biopic of Gertrude Bell played by Nicole Kidman.
There are new films from Brits Andrew Haigh, following up Weekend with 45 Years, and Peter Greenaway tackling the famous Soviet director’s misadventures in Mexico with Eisenstein in Guanajuato. But this is not all about English language cinema. Benoit Jacquot, last seen premiering a film at Venice just a few months ago returns already with Diary of a Chambermaid starring soon to be Bond leading lady Léa Seydoux, while there’s a strong offering from Germany with As We Were Dreaming about a gang of boys in Leipzig after the collapse of East Germany.
Further afield, Chilean director Pablo Larraín who last brought us No, returns with The Club, a film about a groups of priests and a nun, acclaimed Iranian Jafar Panahi brings Taxi to the table, and Chinese film Gone With The Bullets, the sequel to a domestic box office smash hit, looks to bring a bit of gloss.
There’s life outside the main competition as well. Kenneth Branagh’s live action adaptation of Cinderella, new Win Wenders film Every Thing Will Be Fine headlined by James Franco, Oliver Hirschbiegel trying to put Diana behind him with 13 Minutes, the portrait of a carpenter who tried to kill Hitler, and Ian McKellen’s aging detective in Mr. Holmes all sneak into the competition section in non-competing roles. Elsewhere, there’s the premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey, Anton Corbijn’s new film Life about photographer Dennis Stock, Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy and Helen Mirren’s fight against state sanctioned greed in Woman in Gold.
Spread across the other sections there are a number of fascinating offerings. Magic Magic director Sebastián Silva tells the story of a gay couple trying to have a child in Nasty Baby, Victorian era psychodrama Angelica promises to unsettle but probably not as much as Alex Ross Perry’s new film Queen of Earth. There’s also intriguing Palestinian film Love, Theft and Other Entanglements, vicious domestic violence in German film Tough Love and Brazilian coming of age drama in Seashore to name just a handful of the films on display.
Basically there’s far more than any one person could ever hope to watch and we haven’t even got to the lengthy list of documentaries exploring everything from fringe musical artists to military brutality, or the revival of classics including the premiere of a new 4K version of Goldfinger.
How can anyone get through all this? The answer is they can’t. But trying will sure be fun.
The 65th Berlin Film Festival opens on 5th February running until 15th.
13 Minutes (2015)
Are You Here (2013)
As We Were Dreaming (2015)
Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories (2015)
Chasuke’s Journey (2015)
Diary of a Chambermaid (2015)
Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015)
Every Thing Will Be Fine (2015)
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Gone with the Bullets (2014)
Knight of Cups (2015)
Love, Theft and Other Entanglements (2015)
Mr. Holmes (2015)
Nobody Wants the Night (2015)
Portrait of the Artist (2014)
Queen of Earth (2015)
Queen of the Desert (2015)
Sworn Virgin (2015)
Tell Spring Not to Come This Year (2015)
The Club (2015)
Under Electric Clouds (2015)
Woman in Gold (2015)
Berlin International Film Festival 2015 – Five things we’ve learned
Berlin International Film Festival 2015 – Round-up
Indiegogo – Miranda Fleming Interview
Love, Theft and Other Entanglements – Alayan Brothers Interview
Queen of Earth – Alex Ross Perry Interview