The Berlinale has become synonymous with high quality World Cinema, last year’s festival awarded A Separation (2011) the prestigious Golden Bear award, the film went on to win many more awards, is nominated for an Academy Award and made many a film critic’s best films of 2011 lists. This year the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival is playing host to a multitude of films from all over the globe as well as a Retrospective on ‘The Red Dream Factory’ and an Homage to actress Meryl Streep, with a screening of The Iron Lady (2011) and a presentation of the Honorary Golden Bear Award for her lifetime achievement in film.
Divided into sections, the festival programme is extremely diverse, the most talked about sections often being the Competition films and the Berlinale Special Screenings. This year’s Competition films include Billy Bob Thorntons’s latest Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012), starring Thornton alongside Robert Duvall, John Hurt and Kevin Bacon. The film is set in Alabama in the late 1960s and follows two families who are bought together but have a clash of cultures at a time when the Vietnam protests reached America’s southern states. The festival will open with Les Adieux à la Reine (Farewell My Queen) (2012) which explores the relationship between Marie Antoinette and one of her readers during the early days of the French Revolution and stars Lea Seydoux, Diane Kruger and Virginie Ledoyen. Directed by French Benoît Jacquot and based on the award winning novel of the same name as the film, this historical drama is a great start to the festival.
Also in Competition is German/Norwegian Gnade (Mercy) (2012) which focuses on small Norwegian town Hammerfest that due to its location is cast in complete darkness for two months as the sun doesn’t make it over the horizon. It focuses on a couple dealing with life in this permanent darkness. L’enfant d’en Haut (Sister) (2011) is a French drama set in a popular tourist destination in the Alps and concentrates on one child who lives with his sister and spends his time rummaging through hotel wardrobes and rucksacks for things to eat and sell. The Spanish Dictado (Childish Games) (2012) plays with the conventions of the psychological thriller and is inspired by the work of Alfred Hitchcock using haunting music, surreal dream sequences and creating an ominous atmosphere.
Films Out of Competition to look out for are the British Bel Ami (2012) starring Robert Pattinson as Georges Duroy, an ex-sergeant who seduces and manipulates wealthy women in bourgeois Paris in the 19th century. It also stars Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas. Stephen Daldry’s Oscar nominated Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) is another literary adaptation featuring in the festival. It follows Oskar, a nine year old boy whose father died in the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Oskar finds a key amongst his father’s possessions and endeavours to find out the story behind the key and where the lock is that the key fits. Shadow Dancer (2012) is set in 1990s Belfast and sees an active member of the IRA becoming an informant for MI5 in order to protect her son’s welfare. Starring Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson and the brilliant Aidan Gillen, and directed by James Marsh (Project Nim, Man on Wire), this psychological thriller is definitely intriguing.
The Berlinale Special Screenings by definition draw attention. La Chispa de la Vida (As Luck would have it) (2011) is director Alex de la Iglesia’s latest, starring Salma Hayek, it is a satire about today’s scheming and sensation-hungry media. Anton Corbijn Inside Out (2012) is a documentary about the photographer and filmmaker (Control) which gains access to the private life of this reclusive artist. Following on from Into the Abyss (2011), Werner Herzog’s latest Death Row (2012) is shot in a maximum security prison in Texas and features interviews with death row inmates. There are four portraits in which Herzog questions the death penalty and delves deep into the human soul. Also on offer is Gluck (Bliss) (2012), set in Berlin it follows traumatised Irina who meets unemployed punk Kalle. The two fall in love but their relationship is threatened when things go from bad to worse. There is also Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011); set during the Balkan war, Guy Maddin’s latest Keyhole (2011); a beautiful and surreal black and white vision of the Pick family, and Kevin MacDonald’s Marley (2012); a documentary on the legendary reggae singer.
Other films to look forward to from the Panorama section include Cherry (2012) about a young woman who gets involved in the porn industry in San Fransisco starring Ashley Hinshaw, Heather Graham and James Franco, the hopefully so bad it’s good Iron Sky (2012), the quirky sounding Rentaneko (Rent-a-cat) where Sayoko rents cats to lonely people, and The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears (2012) which is described as a portrait of two very different cultures interwoven with fairy-tale-like elements.
Flickfeast will be at the Berlinale so check back for the latest reviews of the festival films.
For a full list of all the films in Competition and the complete programme for the festival visit www.berlinale.de
A Moi Seule (2012)
A Royal Affair (2012)
As Luck Would Have It (2011)
Caesar Must Die (2012)
Death Row (2012)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
Farewell My Queen (2012)
Home for the Weekend (2012)
In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011)
Iron Sky (2012)
Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012)
Postcards from the Zoo (2012)
Side by Side (2012)
War Witch (2012)