Berlin Film Festival: Day 8 - A busy one!

Posted 7 March 2018


Oh my word did I cram a lot into today. And oh my word it did not start well. ‘Damsel’ was my first film, a comic take on the Western featuring almost interesting performances from Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska, who are let down by a paper-thin plot that runs out of steam after the first 30 minutes. It’s a shame because it’s yet another example of a film that looks great and starts off strongly…only to fall apart like a soggy muffin.

I then headed over to watch Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s apocalyptic alien invasion nightmare ‘Foreboding’ and as a shameful disclaimer…I walked out after 45 minutes. The idea of undercover aliens stealing human “conceptions” (like the understanding of what a ‘father’ or ‘family’ is) to destabilise humanity is absolutely my cup of tea, but this was dealt with in such a heavy-handed way. Neither the pace or tension were there for me and I just couldn’t settle for the remaining hour and a half…so I will have to give it another go at some point. I decided to go for another film and opted for one from the Competition, which was ‘Dovlatov’: a biopic of Russian writer Sergei Dovlatov. This is a gorgeous-looking film that drifts in and out of meetings and conversations, and by focusing on just 6 days of Dovlatov’s life through long, delicately-filmed scenes, you are completely immersed in the world of the publishing houses and literary gatherings of Soviet-era Russia. Extended conversations about Russian writers might be unappealing to people who aren’t familiar, but it’s a very well-made film that highlights the tensions and struggles faced by artists who champion independent thought and expression.

After finding some time to shovel down dinner (an excellent burrito), my next film of the day was Danish drama, ‘Denmark’, which was essentially an extended episode of Skins… but set in Denmark. Director Kasper Rune Larsen brings us into the lives of its late teens and early 20s cast with nimble hand-held camerawork to show a world of drugs, sex and parties alongside complex relationships and personal struggles. Where other films could have gone the way of melodrama, ‘Denmark’ doesn’t come across as a film designed to shock, offering no judgement on what its main characters get up to, instead choosing to focus on the emotional connections between people and treating their experiences as valid and worthwhile. It was a bit ropey every now and then, suffering in the same way as ‘Virus Tropical’ with disappearing characters and moments in the story not fully explored, but it kind of suited the more naturalistic style of filmmaking to not give every detail away.

Sticking with the Scandinavians, I took a train to the overwhelmingly beautiful Friedrichstadt-Palast for a screening of ‘Becoming Astrid’, which follows the childhood and early adulthood of the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. The international title is a touch misleading as we don’t get as far as Astrid-as-author, but what we do get is an impressive and powerful account of a young woman’s life as she faces various heart-breaking struggles. It’s a warm film - at times teetering on the edge of syrupy - that boasts some fantastic performances (particularly from lead Alba August) and I really hope it makes its way over here.

Not quite done for the day, I hopped back on a train to get to the Berlinale Palast for the premiere of ‘Touch Me Not’, a Romanian film from Adina Pintilie. Experimental explorations of intimacy and sexual pleasure are, for the foreseeable future, going to be ‘controversial’ and ‘divisive’, so it will be interesting to see responses to this. It’s brilliant to have such a range of sexual diversity on screen, and I admired the blend of fiction/non-fiction. That said, I felt detached from what I was watching because it’s shot in quite a clinical and distant way, which matched the character of Laura (who is at first afraid of intimacy) but didn’t really suit the others in the film.

Linnea Pettersson

Linnea Pettersson

Programming Assistant Read more posts by Linnea Pettersson


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