Joan's Berlinale 2017 Blog - Days 9-10

Posted 20 February 2017

have a nice day

Often, as the festival nears its end, it is easier to see more films: queues reduce and the general stress levels seem to decline. The final day of competition screening began with the Chinese animation HAVE A NICE DAY which, in a slightly Tarrantino-ish fashion, follows a bag of money as it travels between criminals, opportunists and desperate people with gangsters giving chase. Essentially this is a fairly ordinary storyline but the animation is superb, really capturing the characters and locations uniquely. For animation to be competing at such a high level in the industry and against live-action is brilliant: it is one of the strongest elements of the Berlinale competition that the formats and styles are so varied in the selection. 

The Romanian film ANA, MON AMOUR closed the competition selection and was one of my favourites from this year's strong programme. A Romanian BLUE VALENTINE is the best way to describe this film, as it charts the lifetime of a relationship. Their story is told through flashback, as Toma recounts his relationship with the troubled Ana, a young woman with mental health problems that he falls in love with while at university. Both are saddled with very troubled home lives and the connection between them sees the two go through many struggles together. Ultimately this is Toma's story: his psychoanalysis sessions provide the present-day moments, his self-absorption clouding the validity of his memories and interpretations of Ana. It would be fascinating to see Ana's story too but this is a brilliantly crafted film that makes the audience question reality, health and the meaning of love. 

After a very quick dash to another cinema, THE LOST CITY OF Z was ultimately disappointing: a very long and tedious amalgamation of all films you've ever seen about Amazonian explorers. With clear reference points to APOCALYPSE NOW and INDIANA JONES, this was never going to be up my street. Mostly I was rooting for the Indians throughout and would have rather seen a film from their perspective.

INSYRIATED was my final Panorama section film and what a film it is! A story about a flat in Syria, under siege and full of scared people. The magnificent Hiam Abbas plays the matriarch forced to manage the apartment and its occupants, which include: her children; her father-in-law; her maid and the upstairs neighbours and their baby. Crowded and incredibly tense, this flat feels like both prison and protection, as they can't leave and can't let people enter. The snipers surrounding them, the bombs that are going off and the men that attempt to access the flat are not identified with a 'side', they are simply aggressors and it doesn't even seem important who or what they are fighting for to the inhabitants. This is one of the most nail-biting screenings I have been to in a long time, the potential for attack is always there and the explosions both outside the flat and from among the family are palpable. I really hope that this film is released in the UK and we are able to screen it at The Showroom as it is a vital film right now. 

For the final day in Berlin I enjoyed a couple of films in the retrospective, which this year is focused on Sci-fi films. GOG is a 1950s 3D treat! Set in an underground scientific research centre somewhere in the American desert, scientists have been killed by their own machines in unexplained circumstances. The film is chock-full of anti-enemy (presumably Russian) moments, sexist ramblings and the robots Gog and Magog who really are the least scary robots ever in film. I enjoyed the film immensely and it is brilliant to see such a great restoration being screened in 3D. 

SOYLENT GREEN, the ecological Sci-fi starring Charlton Heston, was my final film of the festival this year. Despite being a bit longer than I remembered this film seems very current in its over-population/global-warming nightmare scenario. Obviously, the ridiculous societal changes are rather bizarre and the women considered to be 'furniture' grates particularly. Even though there isn't a single redeemable character on screen, this is still a gripping film as we observe the amoral cop's voyage to the most shocking discovery possible and the incredibly bleak outlook for human kind. A wonderful note to end on?! 

Overall the festival this year was brilliant: I watched 41 films over the course of 10 days, experienced stories from around the world, observed tragedies, romances, thrilling rides and moments of utter beauty. Here's to a great Berlinale! 

joan parsons

Joan Parsons

Senior Programmer and Showcomotion Festival DirectorRead more posts by Joan Parsons

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