Diane Kruger's spy movie to the female emancipation of a Macedonian paesant girl, here are some more reviews of films we've seen over the past week at the Berlinale.
Gospod Postoi, Imeto I’ E Petrunija / God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya
A Christian Orthodox tradition is turned on its head when Petrunya, impulsively jumps into the river to catch cross thrown in the water by the local priest as is accustomed. The cross was meant to be caught by a congregation of local men in their bathing suits, who braved the January cold for this long-held ritual. Initially gobsmacked the men become outraged as is the rest of the folk of Petrunya’s Macedonian, deeming her action as sacrilegious. A female reporter seizes the chance to highlight societal and religious misogyny, as well enhance her own chances of exposure as the story goes viral when Petrunya as is unjustly dragged to the police station and further unlawfully interrogated by the police. Steeped in comedy, this drama has one outstanding protagonist in Petrunya, played exceptionally by Zorica Nusheva. Its message of societal injustice cuts straight through, however matters do starts to veer towards the twee signalling director Teona Strugar choice of obviousness over subtly. Nonetheless, this is an overall enjoyable film.
A rather convulted, if predictable tale about spies in Islamic state is the premise of The Operative, a film that tries to sell itself as the real-life spy drama, where spies are actually real people who fear and make mistakes and are not some information processing, impenetrable killing machine. Diane Kruger excels as newbie spy Rachel who is sent to Tehran, because she is single, no children, speaks English, French and German, but not the local dialect of Farsi and is a quarter Jewish and with a sole job to gather information on tech film who work for the Iranian military. Throughout, I was unsure of who the enemy was and who were the good guys? We do know it was an Israeli secret service but what is their own sinister ulterior motive? Also the role of her mentor Thomas played Martin Freeman, perhaps brought in for some added star power, felt rather pointless. It all gets muddled up with the various twists and turns contributing to a long a list of nagging little things that prevent this from being a good film.
An endearing documentary shot on a hand-held mobile, in selfie mode throughout. Two 16 year olds, Pietro and Alessandro, flip the camera on to themselves as they seek to tell the story of the tragic loss of 16-year-old neighbourhood friend Davide, accidentally shot by policeman whilst riding a motorcycle. With the camera focused on their faces at all times, between the continual moments of them staring at themselves, we get insight into the tragic events of the boy’s death as well as their own impoverished, crime ridden Neapolitan community. There moments of fortuitous brilliance coupled by the comedy provided by the boys’ bravado and innocent narcissism with seemingly very little input from the director Agostino Ferrente, whose efforts were likely focused on assembling the whole thing in post-production. A commendable effort but treads on a tried and tested formula, making the whole thing feel slightly dated and gimmicky.
Der Boden Unter Den Fussen / The Ground Beneath My Feet
Famial issues get in the way of workaholic Lola (Valerie Pachner), whose military style work ethic is continually interrupted by her sister’s severe mental illness and suicide attempts. As her sister is need of more and more attention, so is her career until it all comes to a head all at the very high personal cost to Lola’s well-being. As a whole the film doesn’t come together with way too many moving parts; whether its her scrupulous career, unattached/ attached romantic liaison with her boss, the excessive exercising and the toing and froing from her sister’s psychiatric institution. It all gets a bit convulted, hence we never get a clear cohesive picture. The film is also heavily reminiscent of the exceptional German film Toni Erdman from 2016 not only in its theme but bizarrely there is an uncanny resemblance between both protagonists' looks and demeanour.
The 69th Berlinale film festival runs from the 7th-17th of February.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
Read our previous Berlinale updates here.