Berlinale 2019 #3: More of our picks from this year’s Berlin Film Festival

17th February 2019

From new Amazon TV Series Hanna to British indie The Souvenir to Spanish lesbian Netflix drama Elisa & Marcela, here are some more picks of films we've seen at the Berlinale the past week.


Amazon’s new series Hanna aired its two first episodes as part of the festival's Berlinale Series. Screened at Zoo Palast, a glittery old cinema venue in west Berlin, reminiscent of the 50s Hollywood. Hanna is based on the film with the same title, originally starring Saoirse Ronan as an early teen raised in the solitary wilderness by her dad who trains her up to become the ultimate assassin. The series is based on an almost identical premise but stretched out it a whole series, introducing more teenage, friendship and self-discovery angles and relocates to Eastern Europe then Morocco, Spain and France. The role of Hanna is played by Esme Creed-Miles, who injects silly humour with her clunky wide-eyed innocence. Its slick, sharp and fast paced and judging by these two episodes there is strong feminist streak, making the whole thing feel very current.

To Thavma Tis Thalassas ton Saragsson // The Miracle of The Saragasso Sea 

This Greek effort starts off promising with epic opening scenes of a police raid into an Athen's flat inhabited by young terrorist group which turns out to jeopardise the life of investigator Elizabeth (Aggeliki Pappoulia) after they find pictures of her and her son. To safeguard her well-being she is exiled out of Athens to the fishing town of Messolongi. It is there matters start for veer off tangent where 10 years later we see an Elizabeth now off the rails, looking worse for wear in her bad bottle blonde hairstyle, drinking herself to oblivion, gone is her professionalism, an erratic bully as the local police's chief. It’s not at until 2/3rds when the body of a local bar owner is found hanged and Elizabeth is having to shake herself out of her drunken stupor and solve the case. Director Syllas Tzoumerkas obviously thought audiences needed this excessively long introduction for plot set up, but its big ask to ask audiences to stick around for that long, an almost two hour film and here is also the nagging element of over-acting which becomes grating. Nevertheless, there are some favourable point, the beautiful swampland setting but also Elizabeth’s complete obliteration over any patriarchal efforts to dominate her is refreshingly amusing.

The Souvenir

I had some inclination that I would like this from the trailer which dropped a few months back and so it was a one to watch at the festival. A young film student Julie, in her early twenties, played by Honor Swinton Byrne, daughter of Tilda Swinton who also plays her mother in the film, resides in the family owned two-bed apartment in Knightsbridge. As her courtship with the arrogant posh toff Anthony (Tom Burke) starts to blossom into fully fledged relationship so the does the evidence of his heroin addiction. Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir is an insightful and visually detailed commentary with its mesmerizing if aloof observation of the mundane goings of an English upper-class family in the 80s, turned on its head by the infiltration of class-A drugs.

Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke and Tilda Swinton in The Souvenir.

Elisa Y Marcela / Elisa & Marcela 

Telenovela styled film by Isabel Coixet for Netflix is based on a factual story of two young women who meet at school and fall in love in the turn of 19thcentury. Constantly under the scrutiny of a puritanical eye of their local community, a series of events leads to them getting married until the pretence of husband and wife, where one of them disguises as a man. Unable to fool the village folk, they escape arrest by fleeing to Portugal and eventually to Latin America when they can eventually live their lives freely. Shot in Black and White, it’s an attractive film, the young woman's initial discovery of mutual attraction, overcome by uninhibited desire for each other is endearing but its unconvincingly matched with sex scenes which perhaps feel too modern for their time; one scene in particular sees them amusingly use of slimy octopus as some sort of sex aparatus. An overall easy watch but doesn’t fully convince as an art-house movie, which my guess is what it aimed to be. 

The 69th Berlinale took place from the 7th-17thFebruary 2019.

Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.

Follow our coverage of the Berlinale here.


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