My Berlinale 2016

12688039_10206184369867960_2322840628111632893_nUnfortunately, this year  I couldn’t clear out more than one solitary day for the Berlinale Film Festival. Big thumps up to my friend’s and my time management skills though: We managed to see five movies before we had to catch that 8 am flight back to Vienna.

I hope all the films we saw are gonna make it to the theaters. Surely, „Die Geträumten“ („The Dreamed Ones“) will be shown at Diagonale Film Festival in Graz, Austria (program release today!). „Dubina dva“ („Depth Two“) feels like it could be part of this year’s Crossing Europe Film Festival (Linz, Austria. program release early April). And I sincerely wish I could see „Triapichniy Soyuz“ („Rag Union“) again and again and again and again. Actually, I wanna put it on my wall to watch it every day.*

While in Berlin for a day

We arrived during the late afternoon of Berlinale Day 1 (Thursday, 11th February). Our first way from the airport into the city left us at end of a 20-person queue in front of the main Berlinale ticket office at Potsdamer Platz. While my friend grabbed a program, I took down all available shows during the time of our stay as they were shown on the screen above the ticket office. Since there was information on all the available tickets right through to Feb 21st, the last day of Berlinale, we had to wait and then be quick. I read the eligible movies‘ names out loud and my friend – surprisingly quickly – read the descriptions back to me. At this point I have to say there wasn’t much to choose from. We quickly made a list of available movies we wanted to see, looked up the showing time and – yes – calculated if we could make it in time through Berlin to the next movie screening’s theater as we slowly moved to the front of the queue. Out of seven movies we wanted, we got five. The other two got sold out while we talked to the box office assistant.

Modulor, Muji and Ben Rahim

Friday we spent strolling round Berlin with the – for us – obligatory stops at Modulor (due to their love for great materials and huge variety of – I don’t dare to even use the word  „office supplies“ – a true revelation for designers, architects and writers)** and Muji  (naturally and simply designed home decor, office supplies and clothes, Japanese anti-consumerist ideology ❤ ***). Happily placing our books, note books, pencils, really early Christmas presents and clothes filled shopping bags next to the incredibly beautiful wooden furniture, we ended the day with a strong cup of incredibly good coffee. I first discovered Ben Rahim’s coffee bar during my last stay in Berlin in March 2015. It’s located in one of the smaller yards at Hackesche Höfe. Ben proudly serves Red Brick coffee (roasted by Square Mile in London) that consists of a fine blend of Colombian, Brazilian and Ethiopian beans. A mocca is about 2 Euros and I absolutely recommend it to everyone who’s got the chance and likes coffee. It’s an absolute coffee experience and you’re gonna wish the taste never left your mouth again.

So, let’s go to the theater. On our way up Potsdamer Straße we ran into a friend who works for the Diagonale. Quickly chatting about our plans for the weekend and looking for a possibility to get together, he recommended the movie we were hurrying to. He’d seen it a few hours earlier and thought it was great.

The Movies

Short Stay. USA Ted Fendt

Right before the screening, the presenter made sure we were aware of the analogicity of the following material. As a non-professional film viewer I have to say I didn’t care a lot though it surely felt different to see a non-digital movie.

Short Stay follows an average White American who doesn’t care a lot about life or anything really. By his inability to say ‚No‘ to things or to make up some kind of plan for his life he falls into social and professional situations – and out of them. At first I found the movie quite depressing, witnessing an non-inspirational living between couches that are falling apart, non-individual living rooms and meaningless suburb streets. Then I thought maybe the protagonist is fine with it and: Who am I to discard another persons life choices.

During the last part of the movie – as the antagonist grew more and more hostile towards the protagonist – I felt more and more taken by the main character and his inability to communicate his social and emotional needs. What I took away from Short Stay is a high sensitivity towards small (even invisible) friendly and unfriendly gestures.

Triapichniy Soyus. RUSS Mikhail Mestetskiy

God I loved this movie! During the Q&A afterwards, the director stated he was quite surprised that the Berlinale team had chosen his movie as „Generation 14+“, which is totally justified – the surprise I mean. The Rag Union – as the English title goes – follows a small group of young Russian men that work towards an artistic revolution of the contemporary Russian political and societal system.

Beautiful shots of Russian landscapes and architectures are accompanied by animated film bits. A dreamworld comments creatively the realistic narrative without pushing it. The depressing undertone of social realities in contemporary Russia are met by honest and joyful conceptual work of motivated 20-year-olds. ❤

The coming-of-age narrative allows The Rag Union to escape the depressing tone of Eastern European Cinema we grew used to. We follow Popov, Peter and Andrej – a know-it-all art group appropriating the public space to themselves through free-running and other conceptual physical work. The aesthetics and narration is funny, light and – nonetheless – referring to a dense political background: the social situation in Russia from the perspective of contemporary youths. For some reason the director opposes my view during the Q&A when he states the film deals „not with a Russian topic, but with an universal human topic“. But then, drug addicted relatives, corruption and fainting futures for the youth is becoming a universal human topic these days.

Keep this movie in mind! I hope I’m gonna see it again and you should see it too.

Die Geträumten. AUT Ruth Beckermann

The world premiere of The Dreamed Ones was followed by a Q&A with the creator/director of the film and the leading actress Anja Plaschg whom we know as Soap&Skin. It seemed like everyone involved in the production teamed up perfectly and it was a sheer pleasure to witness this poetic film.

The intimate exchange of letters between the literary magnitudes and lovers Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan (extensive discussion f.ex. here) is being recited by Anja Plaschg and Laurence Rupp (actor at the Burgtheater Vienna) at a astonishingly beautiful recording studio at the Austrian Radio Broadcasting Studios in Vienna.

It is amazing that the concept of reading out loud a letter exchange holds the tension of 89 minutes. I loved the intimate composition of the colors, costume and décor.

You should go and see this.

Dubina dva. SRB Ognjen Glavonic

Ognjen Glavonic (1985, then: Yugoslavia, online portfolio here) just graduated the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, Belgrade. A major topic for him is the Yugoslavian War, which – as he states during the Q&A – to his discontent is not a major topic for young Serbian filmmakers: „Instead of pointing the camera to others, we should start pointing the camera onto ourselves.“ Since a feature fiction film about the same story hasn’t yet been completely funded, he finished „Dubina dva“ (Depth Two), his first feature-length documentary – which was cheaper in production.

The story: A truck full of dead bodies is being found at the ground of a lake in Serbia. Following a thriller-like narration style, Glavonic arranges audio statements of witnesses to actions of mass murder during the war as voice overs to pictures of grey contemporary Serbian landscapes.

This movie is as dense as is sounds. It shows existing material from the Milosevic-trials and other interviews and leaves the audience with it. When I left the theater, I had to step aside for a second to cry it out. Big recommendation!

Le Fils de Joseph. FRA Eugène Green

It was a perfect coincidence that our Berlinale day did not send us to bed with Dubina dva on our souls. „Le Fils de Joseph“ is sweet, sympathetic and serene – just the way we like our French films. We follow a Parisian school boy on the search for his biological father who – in the end – finds happiness with a social substitute.

Unfortunately, the film team was not present. Looking at the clock, we were grateful they weren’t: We could head home to get at least a couple of hours of sleep before our plane back to Vienna boarded at 8 am.

Although having seen none of the big films (which was simply impossible), we really enjoyed Berlin during Berlinale season. I will gladly come back next year!

See you there!


 

Web-Links: Film Festivals in Austria
  • DIAGONALE. Festival for Austrian Film. Graz. Mar 8th-13th, 2016.
  • CROSSING EUROPE. Festival of European Auteur Cinema. Linz. Apr 20th-25th, 2016.
  • VIENNALE. International Film Festival. Vienna. Oct 20th – Nov 3rd, 2016.

 

*Austria’s largest Film Festival – the Viennale – releases it’s program in mid August (1st part) and mid October (full program).

** You also might not wanna miss the beautiful and very well sorted book store and the calm, convivial atmosphere at the carefully designed coffee-and-snackery at the ground level of the Modulor building.

*** „MUJI was founded in Japan in 1980 as an antithesis to the habits of consumer society at that time.“ (muji.eu)

 

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