Berlinale 67. The Winners & Losers on the Big Screen

The Berlin Film Festival is undoubtedly a celebration of film. In spite of the doubtful quality of some of the festival entries, irrespective of the increasing commercialization of the film branch and in spite of the crisis of the film genre in general, Berlinale 67 once again managed to live up to standard. With a wide variety of film and video screened in the Festival sections of Competition, Panorama, Forum, Retrospective, Generation and Native, the professional audience members and film lovers lucky enough to get the tickets into the cinema halls, inevitably found films that met their expectations.

Each Festival is as good as its participants and its winners. Tastes differ, yet at a certain point the choices of the Festival Jury, headed by filmmaker Paul Verhoven, and those of the author did coincide. And while it would be tedious to expand on the films that didn't make it – here's the author's personal review of the Festival's best of the best:

The Other Side of Hope, an incredibly sincere, touching drama about the tragic fate of migrants and refugees in present day Finland, rendered with impressive cinematographic language, visual form and accompanied by a soul-searching soundtrack, made a strong impression both on critics and audiences alike. Renowned Finnish filmmaker, Aki Kaurismäki, won Silver Bear for Best Director.

Another Festival highlight was undoubtedly On the Beach at Night Alone by Korean Filmmaker Hong Sangsoo. A complex body of work dealing with the complicated relationships between an actress and a film director, a woman and a man, a woman and a woman; about the sincerity of true feeling and the courage to live up to it; and about the exchangeability of gender roles, social norms and continental boundaries. Subtly narrated, the camera zoomed into the inner worlds of the characters, penetrating into the deeper realms of feelings against the endless realm of an ocean background and walks on an empty beach. This quasi biographical film by Hong Sangsoo puts forward statements about general truths and relationships, underlying statements that are applicable to anyone, yet are as personal as ever. The main female character played by Kim Minhee was deservedly awarded Silver Bear for Best Actress for her authentic performance.

Private lives, resurrection of the past and the unpredictable intricacy of human relationships, affection and love, were the topics of Volker Schlöndorff's film Return to Montauk, based on Max Fritsch's literary masterpiece of the same title. This partly autobiographical film narrates episodes from the life of a writer who resurrects the past on the pages of his novel, mixing real life with fiction, making one question the traditional moral virtues, customary social behaviours, differences between truth and lies, and pouring light on the vague realms where reality ceases to exist before passing into fantasy and memory. The seascapes the camera captures of the ocean and sunlit beach pour light onto the opaque nature of desire.

The Berlinale Retrospective was dedicated this year to Sci-Fi films, featuring a classic by Rainer Werner Fassbinder World on Wire, a film way ahead of its time which analyzes the transformative powers of computer programming and its impact on human behaviour, morals, money and other issues – a timeless classic in the best traditions of Fassbiner's cinematographic style.

Another focus of Retrospective was costume in film, this year featuring films with historical attire designed by the outstanding Milena Canonero, giving the audiences once again the chance to enjoy on the big screen unforgettable masterpices by Stanley Kubrik , Clockwork Orange, Shining, Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette and other films.

Last but not least, the Berlinale Special featured TV series on the big screen. As long-year Festival Director, Dieter Kosslik put it, Netflix is not the only one to come up with soap operas. Fassbinder set high standards for this genre back in the 1970s in his Eight Hours Don't Make a Day. The audiences could enjoy all episodes of the series throughout the duration of the festival – a treat one could hardly resist, because the problems, feelings and relationships captured by Fassbinder, one of the greatest German filmmakers of all time, are as relevant as ever, to say nothing of the brilliant acting by iconic Hanna Schygulla and Luise Ullrich in the leading roles.

Lily Fürstenow-Khositashvili

23 February 2017 21:57