Berlin Film Festival: Day 1 – It’s A Corker!

Posted 22 February 2018


Wow. My first film festival and it’s a corker – I’m here at the Berlinale for the next 11 days!

With the taxi to the airport booked at 4am and my excitement levels going through the roof, the chances of me sleeping last night were slim. Instead, I spent my last few hours in England poring over the programme, putting together various schedules of what I was going to try to see over the first couple of days, as well as trying to get my head around where all the different venues were in the city. I’ve never been to Berlin before and some of the cinemas are all over the place, so I’d tried to get myself as familiar as possible with the place. Of course, anything I’d tried to remember dropped out of my brain as soon as I stepped off the plane and I bumbled around the city for a bit with my luggage. palastAfter finding the apartment, I headed to the market to pick up the festival passes and try to get my hands on some tickets for films showing that night and the next day (this was highly unlikely – people can pick up tickets for films showing that day and the next; by the afternoon there’s a good chance most will be sold out!). However, I also have a market badge, which allows me access to market screenings that don’t require tickets, so I knew I’d still be able to get stuck in as soon as possible. I ended up managing to get one ticket for Friday for the premiere of ‘Black 47’ – I’ll write more about this after I’ve seen it!

A quick look through Thursday’s market schedule showed that there was a screening of ‘Lizzie’ in the afternoon and a screening of ‘Pity’ in the evening – both at CinemaxX, which would at least give me a chance to get familiar with one of the venues. I was greeted by big, beautiful screens hidden behind lush red curtains, and comfy seats to get settled into. Directed by Craig Macneill and starring Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, ‘Lizzie’ is a biographical thriller based on the true story of Lizzie Borden, who hacked her parents to death in 1892. The film takes place several months before the murders and Sevigny takes the title role, with Stewart playing Bridget: an Irish immigrant who joins the family as a housemaid. Both give great performances. Sevigny is fiery and determined: challenging her authoritarian father at every turn; Stewart is almost the exact opposite (at first, at least), quiet, passive, fragile…Both characters are suffering at the hands of others, and both are close to breaking point. Now, this was a grim but good-looking film. The framing of Sevigny and Stewarts’ characters traps them in a sterile, claustrophobic prison of a home, heightening the tension between generations and genders. I wasn’t overly impressed with the final 30 minutes - which is only shocking because of its graphic violence and not really anything to do with the plot – and the relationship between Lizzie and Bridget doesn’t quite take off as I thought it would. However, as a whole it’s an impressive feature driven by excellent performances and some subtle but brilliantly captured scenes. It’ll be perfect for anyone who loves a solid grim psychological drama/horror like ‘The Beguiled’.

bearOh, the grim horror did not stop there! A quick skip between screens and I was ready for Greek director Babis Makridis’ second feature film: ‘Pity’. I’d been looking forward to this for a while as I’d sort of enjoyed his debut, ‘L’, and wanted to see where he’d go with this one. ‘Pity’ follows an un-named man whose wife is in a coma. As his sadness draws sympathy from others, he soon becomes addicted to the uplifting power of pity…and dangerously so. The deadpan absurdity remains, and it’s co-written by regular Yorgos Lanthimos collaborator Efthymis Filippou, which should give you a tiny idea of what to expect if you’re familiar with the films of Lanthimos (‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’), Argyris Papadimitropoulos (‘Suntan’) and Athina Rachel Tsangari (‘Chevalier’). Only a tiny idea, though. Pity takes you on a brutal, experimental ride that I found both painfully funny and just plain…painful. It’s a sly, wicked film and I’m a fan.

So, I definitely did not take it easy on my first day. After another little explore around Potsdamer Platz (the whole area islike a spectacular cinema cake, iced in red) and some dinner, I headed back to the apartment for some much-needed sleep before my first proper day…

Linnea Pettersson

Linnea Pettersson

Programming Assistant Read more posts by Linnea Pettersson


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